Preparing Coastal Communities For Change

2019-08-23T09:37:58+00:00 July 2, 2018|

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The Sea Grant Association, in conjunction with the House Oceans Caucus (chaired by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) and Don Young (AK-At-Large)), sponsored a congressional briefing titled, “Preparing Coastal Communities for Change: Economic Resiliency, Fisheries, Coastal Erosion, Sea Level Rise, and Ocean Acidification.”

Why It Matters

Environmental changes, including melting sea-ice, warming ocean, acidifying waters, and intensifying weather affect more than just the natural ecosystem. They threaten the prosperity of our economy, the stability of our coastal communities, the security of our food, and the health of our families. Hardships experienced as a result of a changing planet can be mitigated by understanding the problems, preparing communities, and planning ahead. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant) does just that, supporting coastal communities through science and education.

Key Points

Experts from across the U.S. described Sea Grant’s commitment to building resilient coastal communities through science and partnerships. The panel, composed of diverse sectors, agreed the planet, ocean, and Great Lakes are changing (e.g., warming, rising, acidifying), and it is imperative that coastal communities be prepared.

Dr. Robert Steneck (Professor of Oceanography, Marine Biology and Marine Policy, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine) described the decreasing biodiversity in the Gulf of Maine since the 1600s. The observed shift from a predator-dominated ecosystem to a prey-dominated one is largely due to changing environmental conditions, such as warmer water favoring prey species like lobster. He explained that there are benefits of warming water, including increasing biodiversity and bringing in new species for potential fisheries. However, he cautioned that too much warming (over four degrees) could jeopardize existing fisheries, such as cod and lobster, and threaten the livelihoods of the community.

The impacts of ocean acidification have been heavily observed on the West Coast. Experts from Oregon and Alaska explained how research is crucial for adapting to and reducing the threat of ocean acidification on the fishing community. They touted Sea Grant’s support of science and highlighted several community projects, including one training fishers on aquaculture and new technologies so they can adapt to catch and market price variations, another leveraging seaweed aquaculture for biofuel production and exploring improved vessel fuel efficiency to save fishers money and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and a third monitoring water conditions to inform shellfish aquaculture farms of ideal or hazardous growing conditions.

Mr. Andrew Struck (Planning and Parks Director, Ozaukee County) explained that the nation’s freshwater coasts, the Great Lakes, are experiencing severe erosion, which threatens businesses, homeowners, and recreational users. He described how innovative mapping tools can help with zoning, site planning, and restoration.


“Explaining why changes like sea-level rise affects people across the country, not just our coastal communities, is so important.” – Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1)

“Sea Grant allows conversations to happen by bringing diverse interests together.” – Ms. Julie Decker (Executive Director, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation)

“Louisiana is losing land [to erosion and sea-level rise] faster than any state and is on par with the worst in the world.” – Mr. Pat Forbes (Secretary, Office of Community Development, Louisiana)

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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