CHARLESTON, S.C. – Officials with NOAA hosted a panel discussion in Charleston, hitting topics like ocean exploration and aquaculture.
Much of the conversation had to do with the Department of Commerce’s current strategic plan. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s contribution to the plan are broken into two parts, weather and water, and growing the blue economy. The blue economy refers to the economic contributions of our oceans and lakes.
One big element of the blue economy is seafood.
“Commercial fishing alone contributes 200 billion dollars to our national economy, and about 2 million,” said Tim Gallaudet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.
However, we still import 90% of the seafood we consume. One of NOAA’s goals is to erode the 16 billion dollar deficit that creates.
Another element is exploration. We’ve only explored and mapped about five percent of the ocean. That’s less than we’ve mapped on Mars. There could be huge benefits to sea exploration. For example, a new coral reef complex was just discovered right off the coast and the new species of marine sponges found there have some anti-cancer properties.
“ATZ which was the first drug that was used for the control of cancer was discovered from a humble sponge in the Caribbean. That actually ushered in a lot of novel therapeutics for the control of HIV,” said Dr. Mark Hamann with the MUSC College of Pharmacy.
The other focus, water and weather, is about saving lives and minimizing the impact of events like hurricanes. NOAA is looking to improve its prediction and warning systems and to get back to having the number one models in the world. Right now, they’re typically beaten by European models.
Something else discussed, the three E’s: exploration, engagement, and education. Why explore? Because to preserve and protect the deep sea, we have to understand it. Scientific, academic, and public communities have to be involved, so others can be educated…
“Those three E’s lead to employment in a work force. We need more people doing this, we need those jobs available to explore, to protect, and to educate as well,” said Leslie Sautter with the College of Charleston.
Charleston has been named the number one tourist destination in the country. It has the fastest growing port. Some say all of this leads to one question.
“The critical question for us all is how do we leverage our power as the number one tourist destination in the universe to change the world in a positive way for conservation?” asked Albert George with the South Carolina Aquarium.
There was a public comment period and many that took part used their three minutes to oppose offshore drilling.