GCOOS Outreach and Education Coordinator Dr. Chris Simoniello and GCOOS staff member Grant Craig attended “Our Ocean’s Future Forum,” a public meeting hosted by the Sierra Club, the Surfrider Foundation and the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, on Nov. 4 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director for the Surfrider Foundation, gave an overview of the last 15 years of U.S. ocean policy, highlighting the challenges and successes of the 2010 National Ocean Policy. Presenters discussed topics that included the benefits of ecosystem-based models for fisheries management; the negative effects of seismic testing used in oil and gas exploration; how coastal management policies affect sea turtle nesting; implementation of spatial modeling to aid research and planning; the value of regional data portals in supporting National Ocean Policy; and the growing interest to develop and utilize citizen science technology to benefit public health along the Gulf coast.

David Helvarg, author and Executive Director of the Blue Frontier Campaign, surmised his feeling on the current state of ocean protection as “more frustrating than despairing,” explaining that the scientific information and technology to restore and reverse damage exist and more funding, policy and public support are needed to effectively put plans into action.

Holly Parker, the Florida Regional Manager for the Surfrider Foundation, assembled a diverse group of presenters that also included Martha Collins, Founder, Collins Law Group; Erin Handy, Florida Climate & Energy Campaign Manager; Gary Appelson, Policy Coordinator, Sea Turtle Conservancy; Dr. Noelle Boucquey, Assistant Professor, Eckerd College; Kelly Vasbinder, Fisheries & Ecosystems Ecology Lab, USF; and Dr. Tracy Fanara, Staff Scientist, Mote Marine Laboratory. Approximately 75 environmental professionals and concerned members of the general public attended.