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Gulf of Maine Times

Vol. 4, No. 2


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Gulf of Maine will benefit from policy/science alliances

By Evan D. Richert
Director, Maine State Planning Office

Photo courtesy of Maine State Planning OfficeGood policy in the Gulf of Maine depends more than ever on good science. When resources were abundant, when the state of technology limited the ability to extract the resources, and when conflicting demands for use of the Gulf were few compared with its seeming vastness, policy makers didn't look to science for much help.

But resources now are scarce, technology and the people wielding it know how to mine the Gulf to the breaking point, and demands for use are in conflict from the coastline to Georges Bank. Policy makers need help from science. In turn, science needs the support of government policy makers.

Curiously, as dependent as they are on each other, policy and science aren't natural allies. The dicta of science have long included the need to perform basic research - to garner understanding of natural laws and processes - without thought of practical ends and to do so with a minimum of governmental control that might stifle creativity and the pursuit of knowledge. The dicta of policy have long included the need for research to fulfill fairly immediate practical ends and the need for at least performance-based controls over what it is funding. So there is a natural, logical, and sometimes unfriendly tension between the two.

But there also are opportunities for alliances, and Maine is involved in at least three that are taking shape in the region.

The first is a working relationship between the Gulf of Maine Council (Council) and the Regional Association for Research in the Gulf of Maine (RARGOM). The Council and RARGOM are discussing the potential of using RARGOM as a clearinghouse and matchmaker between policy makers that have needs for information and scientists around the Gulf who have knowledge of the specific topics of concern.

The second is the budding Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS). A nonprofit consortium of scientists, governmental agencies, and industry, GoMOOS' mission is to provide the infrastructure necessary for continuous, ongoing observations of the Gulf. It will employ an array of fixed buoys, land-based radar systems that can observe surface waves, satellite images, and ship-based surveys to collect a suite of measurements needed by industry, managers, and researchers.

GoMOOS will launch this fall with funding from the US Office of Naval Research and review by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program. GoMOOS will be governed by representatives of interested organizations from throughout the region. For information, contact Josie Quintrell at the Maine State Planning Office, (207) 287-1788 or via E-mail at

Third is the evolving area of applied marine research - research that addresses current practical needs. Some examples of this in Maine include the work of the Bigelow Laboratory, the University of Maine, and others under the auspices of the Island Institute to understand and predict the recruitment of lobster larvae in Penobscot Bay. Another is the nascent Gulf of Maine Aquarium Research Laboratory, whose mission is applied marine science to help industries and managers tackle problems within Gulf of Maine fisheries. In addition, the recently formed Northeast Consortium (University of New Hampshire, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Maine) is sponsoring cooperative research projects with fishermen on the Gulf of Maine.

As each of these partnerships attempts to meld the efforts of science and policy makers, all are also opportunities ripe for support from people living and working throughout the Gulf of Maine region.


Editor's Farewell

Nearly four years ago, the Gulf of Maine Times developed from the idea that if people in the Gulf of Maine region understand the value of this exceptional system of land and sea, they will do what they can to care for it. That many of you have told us that you do find the Times interesting and informative is gratifying, especially as I prepare to move on to new adventures.

Serving as Editor of the Gulf of Maine Times has been an incredibly enriching professional and personal experience, but the paper would not exist without our loyal readers and the contributions of many other people and organizations who are extremely generous with their time and resources. Some of them are named in our masthead, above.

As the Times seeks a new Editor, the paper may take a brief hiatus from your mailbox. Look for subsequent issues in the future as the Times continues to inform the Gulf of Maine community about the system on which it depends so much.

Suzy Fried