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Northeast Consortium Gets NOAA Funding, Recognition
THE NORTHEAST CONSORTIUM began ten years ago – in the era of budget earmarks – as a unique means of conducting fisheries research with the participation of fishermen themselves. Now, a decade later, the program, which is housed at EOS, has been awarded $1 million by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through a competitive funding process and formally recognized as a critical component in NOAA’s strategic plan.

Chris Glass, the program’s director as well as director of the Ocean Process Analysis Laboratory (OPAL), says that because funding now comes through NOAA “it will allow us to work more broadly and directly with the agency as opposed to being more of an independent program as in the past. And this will provide us with the opportunity to get feedback from NOAA itself, particularly NOAA fisheries.”

Northeast Consortium
Photo courtesy of
Northeast Consortium
Glass notes that NOAA Fisheries Service, in recently preparing “Cooperative Research in the Northeast: A Strategic Direction for 2010-2014,” spent time scoping various ports in the Northeast region “and the consortium is clearly identified in a number of places in that document as being a key participant in their strategic vision for the next four to five years.” He adds, “And I think they’ve also identified that we’re important for stakeholders around the region who see this as an important program and worthy of continued support.”

Indeed, NOAA’s strategic plan notes that the cooperative research approach of the Northeast Consortium “has proven successful and should be fostered…regional scientists and fishermen have benefited greatly from the various sources of cooperative research funds made available during the last 10 years.”

Glass believes there is now an opportunity for the program to diversify and bring additional project participants into the mix. “This is no longer just a way of engaging the fishing industry – it’s now more directed towards helping solve issues within the marine environment more broadly while still using fishermen’s experience and expertise,” he says.

And with a new dynamic within the region – the move towards what’s called “sector management” – Glass believes the consortium’s work will be more critical than ever because “we don’t yet have any real science underpinning of how sector management is going to work. A lot of research needs to be done to bring that about, to make sure the transition works.” Under the sector management model, broadly speaking, NOAA allocates resources to sectors within the industry and leaves it up to those sectors to decide how best to access those resources within the confines of very specific fishing restrictions, reporting requirements, and other mandates.

Glass is already working closely with the director of Northeast Fisheries Science Center getting feedback on issues that are vital to them in order to “feed” into the management process.

“There’s a lot of good science that gets done that never reaches the management table and our goal is to have our results presented in a format that allows the council to make better-informed decisions using the best available scientific data. We’ll also continue to serve the data from all projects on our publicly accessible web portal,” Glass says. -DS

by David Sims, Science Writer, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. Published in Fall 2009 issue of EOS Spheres.