About the Council
In 1989 the governors and premiers of the five Gulf jurisdictions – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia – established the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (the Council) as a Canadian-American regional partnership that provides collaborative leadership on cross-border issues such as ecosystem conditions, water quality, and climate change within the Gulf of Maine watershed. This forum engages governmental and nongovernmental representatives in a comprehensive approach to management, emphasizing natural linkages over political boundaries and integrating ecological, economic and societal goals. The Council’s work to protect and enhance environmental quality and allow for sustainable resource use by existing and future generations is made possible by volunteer and financial support from many partners.
The mission of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment is to maintain and enhance environmental quality in the Gulf of Maine to allow for sustainable resource use by existing and future generations.
The work of the Council in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem is guided by a set of principles. Each principle is congruent with international protocols, as well as state, provincial, and national legislation in Canada and the United States.
- Ecologically sustainable development
The Council seeks to meet the region’s current social, cultural, and environmental needs without compromising the needs of future generations. Working in partnership with others, it strives to sustain ecological processes and enhance the region’s quality of life.
- Ecosystem-based planning and management
The Council supports collaborative management that integrates economics and ecological values and objectives, emphasizing natural rather than political boundaries.
- Environmental protection through precaution
The Council supports conservation of the coastal and marine environment, and urges its members to proceed with caution when scientific information is incomplete to avoid environmental degradation.
- Public information and participation-based planning and management
The Council is committed to a participatory process that informs and engages the public in setting priorities, forming policies, and pursuing efforts to conserve the Gulf’s environment.
The Council organizes conferences and workshops to discuss issues pertaining to the Gulf of Maine; provide funding and technical support to communities for conservation and restoration efforts; conduct environmental monitoring; provide science translation to management; raise public awareness about the Gulf; and connect people, organizations, and information.
Adapting to Change
The Council works to help communities protect and restore valuable coastal habitats. Through an extended partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, complemented by other supporters such as the RBC Blue Water Project, the Council has funded 115 local projects that have restored 680 acres (260 hectares) of tidal marsh and reopened 4,900 acres (1,900 hectares) of spawning area to sea-run fish such as alewife, eel and salmon. The wildlife benefits of restoration are matched by notable economic returns, including commercial and recreational fishing opportunities, and engineering and construction jobs.
To help communities take effective action in a world with more variable and extreme weather events, the Council’s Climate Network serves as a regional clearinghouse for information on climate impacts and adaptation strategies. The Network fosters the exchange of climate information across sectors and jurisdictions; provides resources for local communities in the Gulf of Maine watershed; and produces a quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook that summarizes the past season’s temperature, precipitation and impacts, and offers an outlook for the next season.
Tracking Ecological Health
The Gulf of Maine Council works to gather region-wide ecological data and address critical changes in the watershed. To help gauge large-scale ecological changes over time, the Council established the EcoSystem Indicator Partnership (ESIP), a reporting system that uses factsheets and two web-based tools to deliver regional indicator information. The tools integrate data from more than 13,000 monitoring sites and track regional trends in fisheries, aquaculture, coastal development, climate change, eutrophication and contaminants. ESIP also facilitates data collection in regional settings where large gaps exist.
Gulfwatch, another research partnership launched by the Council in 1991, uses blue mussels to track the presence of metals, pesticides, PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in nearshore waters. Some contaminants concentrate as they move up the food web, threatening human health and species such as seals and ospreys. The Council has also synthesized and publicized research on sewage and nutrients that can cause eutrophication and algal blooms like “red tide.”
To share research on a broad array of Gulf-related concerns, the Gulf of Maine Council produces the State of the Gulf of Maine Report, an online document that offers cyclically updated, peer-reviewed papers on topics such as marine invasives, at-risk species and coastal development.
Past and Future Action
The Council’s work is guided by a five-year Framework for Action which outlines five-year goals and corresponding outcomes to respond to changing needs in the Gulf of Maine. Over the years the Council has collaborated on initiatives related to mapping, sustainable coastal communities, environmental monitoring, marine spatial planning and conservation.
Gulf of Maine Council’s active initiatives and planned activities are highlighted in a two-year Work Plan. The Work Plan supports the goals and outcomes of the five year Action Plan and is periodically updated to reflect work plan changes and incorporate any new initiatives approved by the Council.
Working Together and Sharing Success
Gulf of Maine Council has strengthened alliances among those who share its vision for a healthy and vital region. It fosters this synergy by sharing stories of success, and by offering annual Gulf of Maine awards. To date, the Council has honored more than 200 individuals, organizations and businesses for their exceptional commitment to sustain the Gulf watershed.
The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment is made up of the Council, a Working Group which oversees the implementation of the Action Plan and Work Plan and provides expert advice to the Council, and several committees responsible for various aspects of the Council’s role in the Gulf of Maine. The Council is administered through a Secretariat which rotates among the five jurisdictions.
The Gulf of Maine Council’s Terms of Reference, organizational charts, and other reference materials are available in the Gulf of Maine Council Reference Guide. The reference guide is updated as needed to reflect organizational changes to the Gulf of Maine Council.