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January 2011 Issue

National Sea Grant College Loan Program Summary

By Dr. Leon M. Cammen
Amy Painter
Communications Leader
National Sea Grant College Program

The National Sea Grant College Program continued in 2010 to implement its five-year national plan, which includes four focus areas: healthy coastal ecosystems; sustainable coastal development; a safe and sustainable seafood supply; and hazard resilience in coastal communities. This plan also includes several cross-cutting themes, such as climate adaptation in coastal communities.

In order to help Sea Grant reach the goals and objectives of its national plan in an effective, coordinated and collective manner, last year we established teams in each of the four national focus areas to offer guidance as the national strategies are implemented.

Prominent 2010 Accomplishments
Sea Grant's focus teams—each of which has about 12 members drawn from the National Sea Grant Office, the National Sea Grant Advisory Board, Sea Grant directors, NOAA and outside experts—recently completed a review of the 32 state Sea Grant program annual reports. The teams identified and synthesized Sea Grant's most prominent accomplishments for each of the four focus areas identified in the national plan.

The Hazard Resilience in Coastal Communities Team identified major accomplishments in coastal community planning, mitigation and adaptation. These include the design of hurricane-proof buildings, increased public safety, reduced risk to coastal erosion and better preparedness for earthquake and tsunami events. The teams cited Sea Grant's rip current and water safety campaign, which has earned national and international recognition, as a major success.

The Safe and Sustainable Seafood Supply Team identified Sea Grant's work to support the responsible harvest of seafood, fuel efficiency of fishing vessels, ghost fishing gear removal, bycatch reduction, worker safety and recreational fishing as major areas of achievement. Another area mentioned was Sea Grant's seafood education and safety programs, which are designed to educate consumers and producers about safe seafood choices. An example of success in this area is the award-winning Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Program, which has set the standard for industry seafood safety training and been adopted internationally.

The Healthy Ecosystems Team lauded Sea Grant's work on water quality in areas such as nutrient discharge control, new national standards and predictive modeling for water management. Also highlighted were restoration and stewardship achievements, such as the creation of coastal habitat and use of historic data for predicting ecosystem change.

The Sustainable Coastal Development Team focused on Sea Grant's leading-edge efforts in the area of working waterfronts. The Sea Grant-sponsored September 2010 Working Waterways and Waterfronts National Symposium on Water Access has given rise to a national coalition that is bringing significant attention to this area. This team highlighted Sea Grant's work to improve land use and land-cover data by initiating the development of a consistent data set on these topics for the nation's coastal watersheds.

The teams also assessed Sea Grant's progress in achieving the outcomes in the national plan and identified new opportunities and directions for Sea Grant national and regional initiatives. This process has also served to identify gaps or undercapitalized issue areas in which Sea Grant may wish to invest additional resources. We see this focus team assessment process as integral to moving the program forward and to ensuring that we are fully realizing our potential and carrying out our national plan.

Emphasis as a National Program
Sea Grant has often struggled with the perception that it is not a focused, national program, but a collection of independent state programs. In attempting to change that perception, Sea Grant has implemented a number of changes. We have shared stories focusing on Sea Grant's successes, released national performance measures and metrics (collected each year through annual reports), and introduced a new performance, implementation and evaluation system.

This November, we released the first 'State of Sea Grant 2010' biennial report to Congress. This report, required by the 2008 Sea Grant Act and prepared by the National Sea Grant Advisory Board, makes formal recommendations and calls for the entire Sea Grant network to focus its efforts on advancing national priorities while remaining sensitive to local needs. The report also makes five additional recommendations.

Local Programs and Student Support
In 2010, Sea Grant assisted 160 coastal communities to adopt or implement hazard resiliency practices. Sea Grant also supported nearly 1,700 undergraduate and graduate students, which will help to develop a diverse, highly qualified workforce.

Sea Grant continued to help local communities engage with experts in climate adaptation, an effort that calls for Sea Grant's on-the-ground personnel. Within NOAA, Sea Grant has been an active participant in discussions about how the NOAA Climate Service should be structured and has funded local and regional climate efforts. At the program level, Sea Grant outreach experts have been working closely with coastal communities to plan and prepare for climate-related events and hazards.

In 2010, each of the 32 state Sea Grant programs received $30,000 to conduct rapid-response, community-based climate adaptation demonstration projects in their states. Many programs focused on sea-level rise and storm water management. Others focused on developing locally relevant scientific, educational materials or tools. All projects included a component of capacity-building to support stakeholders in making informed choices.

Sea Grant tailored projects to each community's specific needs. Examples of projects include: assessing the state of science for communities through workshops and needs assessments; offering outreach on the impacts of storm water and other extreme weather events; developing tools such as geographic information system maps; and updating existing hazard plans to account for the consequences of climate change.

Looking Ahead and Conclusions
Sea Grant has identified a need for an increased emphasis on social science across virtually all program activities. This is consistent with NOAA's recognition of the importance of the social sciences in its new 'Next Generation' strategic plan. In order to encourage social science research in Sea Grant, we will support a national initiative in social science research for fiscal year 2012, integrating a social science component into the state Sea Grant programs' research agendas rather than establishing a standalone competition. We hope to attract the attention of researchers who have not traditionally been involved with Sea Grant.

In closing, the longstanding partnership between NOAA and Sea Grant institutions allows the agency to address long-term programmatic goals and develop constituent relationships and local leadership nationwide. As threats to our coasts increase in scale and complexity, it is imperative that our institutions of governance—federal, state and local—be engaged in this process. Sea Grant provides the infrastructure and capabilities to engage these institutions and to help deliver solutions to many of our nation's most pressing problems.

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