WASHINGTON, D.C.--Hurricanes, healthy fisheries, and rapid climate change are among the top priorities in an ocean research plan released here today by the White House. At the same, the Bush Administration announced it plans to ask for $143 million in new funds for ocean research and conservation in next month's 2008 budget request to Congress. "It's a good day for ocean science," says Shirley Pomponi, President and CEO of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, Florida.
The research plan--called "Charting the Course for Ocean Science in the United States for the Next Decade"--was called for by two major reports in 2004 on U.S. ocean policy. Following the reports, the Bush Administration launched an "Ocean Action Plan" that set up an interagency committee on ocean science. The committee's report, issued today, lists 20 priorities for ocean research to be undertaken by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other agencies. The committee also flagged four priority areas for the next 2 to 5 years:
- Forecasting how coastal ecosystems respond to hurricane and other extreme events.
- Studying marine ecosystems to learn how to better manage fisheries.
- Developing new marine biosensors to help predict harmful algal blooms and other impacts on marine and human life.
- Studying major currents in the Atlantic Ocean that could unleash rapid climate change.
At a press conference this morning, the White House provided a breakdown of the new funds it will request on 5 February. Some $40 million will go for research on the above priorities at the three agencies. NOAA will get another $40 million to operate research vessels, build an ocean monitoring network, and survey the continental shelf. Another $38 million would help restore and protect coastal and marine areas, and $25 million would be slotted for efforts to end overfishing.