As the Gulf’s regional ocean partnership, GOMA serves as a nexus for a variety of regional efforts, including the Gulf Restoration, Hypoxia Task Force, and National Ocean Policy initiatives:
- Gulf Restoration – Starting in 2010, many members GOMA were involved in the unprecedented restoration efforts resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. GOMA maintained a web page and a section of the monthly newsletter dedicated to updates regarding regional restoration activities including Natural Resource Damage Assessment, RESTORE Act, National Academy of Sciences’ Gulf Research Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, and National American Wetlands Conservation Act. The webpage can be found here.
- Hypoxia Task Force – The Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (a.k.a., Hypoxia Task Force) was established in 1997 to reduce and control hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Sponsored by EPA, they Hypoxia Task Force consists of 5 federal agencies and 12 states and tribes within the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin. Both Mississippi and Louisiana are heavy participants on the Hypoxia Task Force, each serving as the Chair at some point. The Hypoxia Task Force published their Action Plan in 2008 and have been making progress toward reducing nutrients in the Basin. According to a recent progress report, member states are making progress in by finalizing their nutrient reduction strategy documents. The next step will be implementation. The Hypoxia Task Force also concludes that despite the incremental improvements and significant investments to reduce nutrient pollution, the goal of reducing the size of the hypoxic zone to 5,000 square kilometers is unlikely to be achieved by 2015. However, strides in management plans as well as science and monitoring shows that the overall goal to reduce the hypoxic zone remains reasonable. The Hypoxia Task Force holds semi-annual meetings that are open to the public. More information can be found here.
- National Ocean Policy – The National Ocean Policy outlines challenges facing our nation’s oceans and coastal areas subdivides the United States into nine regions to address those issues. In the Gulf of Mexico region, GOMA was established before the National Ocean Policy and already had the structure in place to address six of the nine challenges: (1) ecosystem-based management, (2) informed decision-making and improved understanding of the ecosystem, (3) coordination and support of federal, state, and local authorities, (4) coastal resilience, (5) ecosystem restoration and protection, and (6) water quality. The three priority objectives of the National Ocean Policy that are not addressed by the Gulf region are not applicable, although informational marine planning meetings were held in 2013 and 2014. A third meeting is scheduled for June 16, 2015. GOMA continues to lead the collaborative effort to address the issues of concern and the federal agencies working in the Gulf region participate in an unchartered Regional Planning Body, chaired by the U.S. Navy.
For more detailed information about regional initiatives, please download the full report here.