August 26, 2019
Dear NOAA Research Council:
On behalf of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, which represents our nation’s leading ocean science, research, and technology organizations from academia, industry, and aquariums, I appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the draft National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Research and Development (R&D) Plan for 2020-2026. NOAA R&D plays a critical role in our nation — strengthening our national and homeland security; underpinning our economy; and ensuring food, water, and energy security. The idea that our securities — national, homeland, economic, food, energy, and water, as well as human health — are dependent on a secure, prosperous, well-understood ocean is a concept I refer to as ocean security. Key to this is the role of ocean science and technology — and therefore R&D — in helping us better understand our ocean and meet the needs of society.
I am pleased to see so many new and exciting areas of ocean science R&D included in this report. Leveraging evolving capabilities in environmental DNA (eDNA) and in passive and active acoustic ocean sound mapping will help us better understand, protect, and restore ecosystems, as well as monitor the state of our economically critical fisheries. Ensuring these and other ocean observations are standardized and widely accessible, as stated in Vision Area 3, is key for policymakers and the public to be able to use ocean research to inform decision making.
Likewise, I applaud setting the growth of sustainable aquaculture in the United States as a key area for R&D. As the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Climate Change and Land highlighted the vulnerability of land-based food sources to climate change, now more than ever, we need to invest in the potential of aquaculture to meet the global growing need for food. NOAA leads the world in science-based fishery management, and I have no doubt the agency will balance rigorous, science-based environmental protections with a federal regulatory and permitting system that encourages entrepreneurial investment, all supported by crucial R&D investments.
I would, however, like to draw your attention to a topic I feel deserves stronger emphasis in the plan. While it crosscuts several objectives, the report should place more explicit focus on marine mammal safety and research, as well as how multipurpose implementation of other technologies can support this goal. Understanding how increased vessel traffic and maritime activity will impact marine mammals is essential to their safety and health, both in terms of reducing vessel strikes and in understanding the effects of anthropogenic noise sources. Detection and monitoring of marine mammals, especially in the understudied areas of the opening Arctic, will inform policies and practices to minimize risk to marine mammals and their habitats, to include the influence of climate change. I urge NOAA to consider how these and other monitoring efforts can be integrated with existing and planned offshore infrastructure and ocean observing platforms to maximize return on investment and further strengthen NOAA’s R&D enterprise.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide comments on the draft R&D plan and help guide NOAA’s scientific enterprise. I would like to reiterate my strong support for the plan and the focus areas it explores. I would be happy to meet with NOAA leadership, including the Research Council, to discuss in more detail any of these topics. I deeply appreciate the work of NOAA in advancing our nation’s ocean security, and I look forward to seeing the agency’s final plan for the next seven years.
Jonathan W. White, RADM (Ret.), USN
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership