Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Sea Grant Programs Honor Senator Mikulski’s Support of Coastal Research and Education

March 5, 2013

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland has received an award from the Sea Grant Association, a network of university programs that supports research and education about the nation’s coasts, to recognize her long-standing efforts as a champion of these programs.

Senator Mikulski’s support of funding for the National Sea Grant College Program has led to federal financing for work by Maryland Sea Grant to help preserve the Chesapeake Bay.

The Special Recognition Award, presented Tuesday, March 5, is the first such award from the Sea Grant Association, which is composed of academic programs in 32 coastal and Great Lakes states. The nonprofit group also awarded Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia the same honor on Tuesday.

As the chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Mikulski has consistently proposed and succeeded at providing money for the national Sea Grant program and its state partners in NOAA’s budget. In December 2012, she became the full Appropriations Committee’s chair.
The state Sea Grant programs support scientific research, education, and public-outreach activities that protect natural resources and promote economic development in the nation’s ocean and coastal areas and in the Great Lakes. Sea Grant serves as a source of unbiased scientific information and best practices that can inform public policy and management decisions. Sea Grant’s educational activities assist citizens in taking responsible voluntary steps to conserve those resources. The Sea Grant programs are typically housed within public land-grant universities.

“In Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay and our coastal waterways are an integral part of who we are as Marylanders -- our heritage, our economy, and our culture,” Senator Mikulski said. “Federal funding spent to protect and understand our oceans is a direct investment in the lives and livelihoods of our coastal communities. The National Sea Grant program makes those connections every day along our coasts and Great Lakes, using top-notch labs to build the bridges between NOAA and our coastal communities. That’s why I will continue to fight to keep ocean, coastal, and Great Lake research and education as priorities in the federal checkbook.”
"Senator Mikulski is Maryland’s gift to the nation," said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, of which Maryland Sea Grant is a part. "She has long been a critical supporter of Sea Grant because she knows how the program has been able to use science to improve the lives of people along our coasts."

“We are honored and grateful to have Senator Mikulski as Maryland’s champion for the Chesapeake Bay and all of our nation’s coastal waters,” said Fredrika Moser, director of Maryland Sea Grant. “Through her superb leadership and support, we come closer each day to achieving healthy and productive bays and watersheds -- ecosystems that are critical to our economic and public-health security.”

The need for Sea Grant’s activities is greater than ever. About half of the nation’s population lives in counties where rainfall drains to the coasts and Great Lakes, and population there has expanded by nearly 51 million since 1970. People’s desires to live near the ocean and other waterways, and the resulting population growth in those areas, have stressed natural resources in many ways. For example, the water quality of coastal rivers has deteriorated, which results in the low-oxygen “dead zones” that form each summer in the Chesapeake Bay.

These pressures on natural resources also threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs and businesses -- in fishing and seafood, for example, including the Chesapeake’s oyster and blue crab fisheries, and in tourism and recreation. Besides her support for Sea Grant, Senator Mikulski has also been a leader in securing federal funds for other programs that help the Chesapeake Bay and these industries. 

The Sea Grant programs promote a balanced approach to advancing the environmental and economic sustainability of coastal natural resources. Through scientific research, the programs come up with new and better ways to protect and improve water quality. By sending Extension agents into local communities in the Chesapeake region and other states, Sea Grant provides practical advice to businesses, local government officials, citizen associations, and other interested groups.

Over the past two years, the Sea Grant network helped to create or retain 630 businesses and 3,800 jobs; restore 670,000 acres of degraded ecosystems; train 450 communities to prepare for coastal storms and flooding; and assisted 9,900 fishers in adopting responsible harvesting techniques.

Thanks to Senator Mikulski’s backing, NOAA’s budget provided $63 million for Sea Grant programs in fiscal year 2012. The state programs leverage this money to attract matching funding: for every two federal dollars they receive, they attract at least an additional dollar in nonfederal resources.

The Sea Grant Association provides the mechanism for the state Sea Grant programs to coordinate their activities with other federal programs; sets program priorities at local, regional, and national levels; and speaks with one voice on issues of importance to the oceans and coasts.

Maryland Sea Grant, based in College Park, is part of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, which also supports research laboratories that study Maryland’s coasts. The center is part of the University System of Maryland. 

-- Jeffrey Brainard