Focus Areas

Healthy Coastal Ecosystems

Healthy coastal ecosystems, sustained by their surrounding watersheds, are the foundation of life along the Gulf Coast. Keeping coastal ecosystems healthy is a challenge because of the diversity of stressors each system faces. This is further complicated because ecosystems do not adhere to traditional political boundaries. Responsible management of these systems requires new kinds of thinking and actions, often termed ecosystem-based management. Ecosystem-based approaches require unprecedented levels of coordination among federal, state and local jurisdictions and the active engagement of the people who live, work and play along our coast. They also require understanding of the characteristics of species, landscapes and their interactions within each ecosystem.

In general, increasingly rapid development of the built environment, greater demands on fisheries resources, climate change and other human activities are leading to water quality degradation, increased demands on water supplies, changes to fisheries stocks, wetlands loss, proliferation of invasive species and a multitude of other environmental impacts. It is essential for decision-makers to understand the interconnectedness and interactions of these systems in order to maintain vital habitats and inform restoration efforts within ecosystems and watersheds.

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

The overall economic impact of the commercial, recreational, for-hire fisheries and aquaculture industries in the United States is more than $276 billion. The commercial fishing industry supports about 1 million full- and part-time jobs and generates $116 billion. The recreational and for-hire fishing industries generate significant tourism revenue with $73 billion in total economic impact for saltwater fishing and an additional $6 billion annually for Great Lakes recreational and for-hire fisheries. The U.S. aquaculture industry generates an economic impact of $1 billion, provides additional opportunities for job creation, and contributes to meeting the nation’s demand for finfish and shellfish. 

Texas Sea Grant will maintain its leadership role in working with the seafood industry to ensure a safe and sustainable supply of seafood products now and for future generations. Seafood safety will continue to be an ongoing concern for consumers as foreign imports, some of which are associated with seafood contamination, continue to increase. Texas Sea Grant’s partnership with NOAA Fisheries, state agencies, seafood processors, fishing associations and consumer groups will ensure safe, secure and sustainable supplies of domestic seafood and decrease our reliance on seafood imports.

RESILIENT COMMUNITIES AND ECONOMIES

To accommodate more people and activity while balancing demands on coastal resources, Texas must develop innovative policies, institutional capacities and management approaches to increase community resilience. Texas Sea Grant will continue to support cutting-edge research in the areas of marine-related energy sources, climate change, coastal processes, energy efficiency, hazards, storm water management and tourism. Texas Sea Grant programs will engage our diverse and growing coastal populations to apply the best-available scientific knowledge that addresses increased resource demands and vulnerability. Ultimately, Texas Sea Grant will bring its unique research and engagement capabilities to support the development of resilient coastal communities that sustain diverse and vibrant economies, effectively respond to and mitigate natural and technological hazards and function within the limits of their natural and built environments.

STEM LITERACY AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

The scientific, technical and communication skills needed to address the daunting environmental challenges confronting our nation are critical to developing a national workforce capacity. The Congressional report, Rising above the Gathering Storm, states that building a workforce literate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is crucial to maintaining America’s competitiveness in a rapidly changing global economy. These skills are also necessary to advance cutting-edge research and to promote enhanced resource management. In recognition of these needs, the America COMPETES Act 11 mandates that NOAA build on its historic role in stimulating excellence in the advancement of ocean and atmospheric science and engineering disciplines. The Act also mandates that NOAA provide opportunities and incentives for the pursuit of academic studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Workforce needs are reflected in the broader science and technology communities of both the private and public sectors with whom Texas Sea Grant works to fulfill its mission.

An environmentally literate person is someone who has a fundamental understanding of the systems of the natural world and the relationships and interactions between the natural and built environment and the ability to understand and use scientific evidence to make informed decisions regarding environmental issues. These issues involve uncertainty and require the consideration of economic, aesthetic, cultural and ethical values.