New College Professor-led Mote Marine Institute Issues First Policy Report on Red Tide in Florida

(August 16, 2007) – The Marine Policy Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory released its first Policy Assessment Thursday offering an overview of red tide research and recommendations, and announced a two-year grant to the institute led by a New College of Florida professor.The policy assessment calls for scientists, policymakers, stakeholders and the public to move beyond polarizing debate surrounding red tide research and focus on a more comprehensive red tide response strategy.
The Marine Policy Institute is directed by Dr. Frank Alcock (at right, speaking at the Thursday news conference), assistant professor of political science at New College of Florida, through an ongoing informal collaboration that allows him to bring his extensive experience in marine policy to bear on issues relevant to Southwest Florida and the state as a whole.
“By capitalizing on the collaborative relationship New College enjoys with Mote Marine Laboratory, we can bring our combined expertise to bear on the pressing marine policy issues of our day, including red tide,” said New College President Mike Michalson, who attended the news conference at Mote.
Mote President Kumar Mahadevan (at podium) addresses the media at an Aug. 16 news conference announcing the red tide report and $400,000 grant. At the table are Dr. Frank Alcock of New College; Michael Bigner, vice president for program services at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice; and New College President Gordon E. “Mike” Michalson.
The institute was created by Mote Marine Laboratory in 2006 to improve the connection between science and society by providing timely, credible policy assessments and advice to decision-makers and stakeholders.
“At Mote Marine Laboratory, we have long been committed to providing the best possible science to policymakers so that fact-based decisions regarding our coastal and marine ecosystems can be made,” said Dr. Kumar Mahadevan, president of Mote. “We also know that it is incumbent on the science community to make sure that decision-makers have relevant information.”
“We hope this Marine Policy Institute report will be the beginning of new and ongoing public dialogue about our oceans.”
A grant from the New Amsterdam Charitable Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Ronald B. Morris supported the Marine Policy Institute’s startup.
Mote also announced that the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice is supporting the institute’s mission through a $400,000 grant. The two-year grant will help the institute move forward with a series of outreach and network-building activities associated with red tide and other issues – such as land-sea interactions, fisheries management and aquaculture – as well as produce issue briefs on relevant policy questions and send out an associated e-mail newsletter. The grant will also help the institute create an advisory panel made up of the nation’s leading economists, social scientists, policy specialists and environmental lawyers.
“This investment in Mote’s Marine Policy Institute will help Mote translate its groundbreaking science into practical advice for public officials on critical issues that affect our coastal community,” said Teri A. Hansen, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice.
The first assessment offered by the institute is “An Assessment of Florida Red Tide: Causes, Consequences and Management Strategies.” The document provides an overview of historical and current red tide research and public discussion, covering areas as diverse as the cause of Florida’s red tide and governance issues, to the effects red tide has on Florida’s residents, marine species and economy.
One of the key recommendations of the assessment is for the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force to be redesigned, funded and reconvened. The assessment also calls for the task force to include a mechanism for an external review of the state’s harmful algal bloom research and management programs, a process that could help build trust with stakeholder groups and provide a means to strengthen both the science and management of red tide research and issues.
According to Alcock, a former Belfer fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, a key theme of the institute’s work is on land-sea interactions. The public concern surrounding red tides – including questions about interactions between coastal runoff and bloom severity and duration – made the topic a natural for the institute’s first report.
“There have been decades of research surrounding Florida’s red tide and much has been learned,” Alcock said. “Yet research has failed to identify a primary cause for the blooms, leading to frustration among policymakers, stakeholder groups and the general public.
“We can’t let unresolved nutrient questions detract from two important agendas: reducing coastal pollution and responding to red tide. Florida needs to reduce coastal pollution for reasons that go beyond red tide, and its response to red tide needs to go beyond reducing coastal pollution. We need to push forward with both agendas regardless of their linkage.”
The institute initiated its assessment of Florida red tide with the following tasks in mind:
* Survey the broad range of research activity pertaining to Florida red tides
* Translate research results into understandable language
* Synthesize and integrate the most relevant research findings in a manner that responds to the most pressing questions put forth by policy makers, stakeholders, scientists and the public
* Assess alternative management strategies and existing regulatory frameworks
* Provide guidance where appropriate.
The full report, including the executive summary and its concluding red tide Q&A, is available for download as a pdf document at www.mote.org/mpi.

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