Stanford, Aquarium, and MBARI launch new centre to tackle global threats to oceans – Fishupdate.com

Stanford, Aquarium, and MBARI launch new centre to tackle global threats to oceans Published:  11 January, 2008

PEOPLE have long depended on healthy oceans for food, recreation and commerce. But this irreplaceable resource is in dire trouble, say marine scientists, largely because of human impacts—from pollution to poorly managed fisheries to climate change.

To address these, and other major threats to the marine environment, Stanford University, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) – all based in the US – have joined forces to create the Centre for Ocean Solutions, a new collaboration that will bring together international experts in marine science and policy to find innovative ways to protect and restore the world’s oceans.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation provided a $25 million grant to establish the new centre in Monterey, California, near the Monterey Bay Aquarium — one of the world’s top aquariums, with more than 42 million visitors since 1984 — and Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, the oldest marine research lab on the West Coast. MBARI, a leading independent oceanographic research institution, is located in Moss Landing, California, about 20 miles to the north.

“It is with great pleasure that Stanford joins two world-class institutions, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and MBARI, to establish the Centre for Ocean Solutions — a unique forum where marine scholars can develop effective solutions to one of the most critical environmental problems of the 21st century,” Stanford President John Hennessy said.

“Stanford is widely recognised for its broad range of marine scholarship in biology, aquaculture, environmental law and many other fields. But the problems we face—from polluted shorelines to collapsing fisheries—are so complex that they will only be solved by engaging in new collaborations that extend beyond the university.”

Although based in California, the centre will confront problems that affect oceans worldwide, including climate change and overfishing. Recent studies warn that unless global warming is brought under control and the seas are managed in a sustainable way, most of the world’s commercial fisheries will collapse within 50 years, along with the majority of coral reef and mangrove ecosystems.

“The Monterey Bay Aquarium is pleased to collaborate in the creation of this new organisation dedicated to solving the big conservation threats facing our oceans,” said Julie Packard, executive director of the aquarium.

“For nearly 25 years, we’ve worked to inspire conservation of the oceans—through our exhibits, education programmes, research and by influencing ocean policy. This collaboration affords us a new and very promising avenue to create a future with healthy oceans. By combining top science talent with innovative policy ideas, I believe the centre has the potential to produce fresh insights and practical solutions to achieve healthy ocean ecosystems for the future.”

Her comments were echoed by Marcia McNutt, president and chief executive officer of MBARI. Founded in 1987, MBARI operates state-of-the-art research vessels equipped for underwater exploration and develops new instruments and tools to answer basic questions about the marine environment.

“Unlike traditional academic partnerships, the centre will have a results-oriented focus that brings experts and decision makers together to develop new strategies that lead to real change,” said Buzz Thompson, professor of law at Stanford and co-director of the Woods Institute. “During the next few months, we will be examining where the centre can have the greatest impact and, therefore, we should be focusing our attention.”

As examples of the kinds of issues that may be addressed, Thompson pointed to three recent workshops sponsored by Stanford, MBARI and the Monterey Bay Aquarium on ocean acidification caused by the absorption of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the sea; water pollution and other land-based threats to coastal ecosystems; and restoring Atlantic bluefin tuna populations.

A search is under way for a centre director, who will be appointed to the Stanford faculty and will work under the leadership of an advisory council chosen by the three collaborating institutions. In the meantime, marine policy expert Meg Caldwell, a senior lecturer at Stanford Law School and at the Woods Institute, will serve as interim director.

“In the United States, there has been a clear lack of leadership on the part of government to solve the major risks facing our oceans, so there is a real opportunity vacuum that the Centre for Ocean Solutions can fill,” said Caldwell, former chair of the California Coastal Commission. “One of our aspirations is to be really forward-looking—not only acknowledging immediate threats but being able to look well ahead and say, ‘These are issues that are going to confront society in the next generation, which we should be dealing with right now.’”

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