2008 Annual Report
Gulf of Maine Research Institute
President's Message
Ocean Century
By Don Perkins, GMRI President
 

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My view is that the 21st century is going to end up being recognized as the Ocean Century. The incoming challenge of climate change, the growing challenge of our energy needs and the shift over to renewable energy and then how do we feed a growing world are going to cause us to recon with the ocean. It’s a source of solace, recreation and enjoyment as well as a source of protein, employment and energy; it draws us to the water in the morning to watch the sunrise and it draws us there in the evening, at the end of the day, because it nourishes our soul. It is going to be a century of growing public interest in, dependence on, awareness of the ocean. It is a very precious part of our gifts that we have here in New England.

Looking back over 2009, for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, as well as for everybody else in the world, it was an incredibly challenging, difficult year. We started the year laying off about 15% of our staff and cutting back on expenses aggressively, which is a terribly painful thing to do. Then we found ourselves confronted with enormous needs in the fishing industry, in the ocean energy arena, and in the education arena and so we stretched to try and serve those needs. Our scientists are playing key roles on the technical committees that drive the entire fishery management process. Our education team is playing a key role in Maine’s emergence as a remarkably scientifically literate state and that’s going to provide all kinds of economic opportunity and education opportunity in a place that has often thought of itself as being isolated. And on the community front we really deepened our leadership role in our work with sectors up and down the New England coast.

One of the interesting things that happened over the course of the year is that we found our science and our education and our community capabilities start to integrate and blend. We launched the Sustainable Seafood Program which really brings together our interest in educating the public, our interest in science and our interest in the fishing community. We got involved in the whole ocean energy question with our role co-chairing the Governor’s Ocean Energy Taskforce. And again that was really a question of “How do you educate the public about a complicated issue?” “How do you deal with the science of a complicated issue?” and “How do you do this in the context of very complicated interests and needs of a coastal community?”

One of the unexpected developments and wonderful developments of 2009 in terms of the resources that GMRI has to bring to bear is that the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System decided to look for a partner to merge with and ultimately we merged with GoMoos and we’ve provided them with a sophisticated business platform; they’ve brought to us an unbelievable array of expertise in terms of “How do you collect data virtually from high tech sensors?” to “How do you make that data available over the internet to recreational boaters, to lobsterman to mariners that are navigating large ships?”, “How do you collect that data to study things like climate change?”

We’ve got this extraordinary Gulf of Maine that is very dynamic; that if understood and managed well can be prolific in terms of producing fish, in terms of aquaculture, in terms of ocean energy, but we have to understand it well enough to take care of it and to use it responsibly and that is what we are all about. We have emerged as a very unusual independent entity that brings independent science, that brings innovation on the education front and brings an unusual ability to bring all the complicated stakeholders from communities up and down the New England coast together to really grapple with and solve problems.

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