Human activities continue to degrade the viability and integrity of marine and coastal ecosystems around the world, resulting in serious ecological, social, and economic consequences at local to global levels. This degradation reduces the ability of coastal and ocean ecosystems to provide the valuable products and services on which U.S. and global communities depend. It also reduces the resilience of these ecosystems, i.e., their ability to resist and recover from human and natural stressors, further increasing the costs and challenges to communities and resource managers. Much of this degradation is driven by human population growth, which is especially concentrated in coastal areas, and thus increases demand for and dependency on ocean and coastal resources. The condition of goods and services provided by U.S. marine and coastal ecosystems are closely linked and influenced by what happens in areas outside U.S. jurisdiction, making international engagement a necessary and key part of improving and maintaining the viability of U.S. and other coastal ecosystems.
Among the most serious impacts on the world’s ocean and coastal resources are destruction of valuable coastal and ocean habitats, over-use and depletion of living marine resources, decreases in water quality from discharges and non-point source pollution, and increasing conflicts among uses of coastal and ocean areas. Most impacts result from a combination of factors such as the lack of information, technical capacity, institutional frameworks, social and economic incentives, and other resources that could be used for effective management of negative human impacts. These activities often crisscross jurisdictional lines and national boundaries, so addressing them requires developing and implementing solutions among international partners at a variety of scales (local, regional, national, and international). This is particularly important where resources are shared between U.S. and other countries. Such resources might be migratory species (e.g., humpback whales migrating between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic, birds migrating between Canada and Mexico along the U.S. West Coast) or important habitats or processes (e.g., Gulf of Maine, the Big Eddy in the Pacific Northwest). Key scientific information and models are lacking at the international level to assess impacts of human activities and find solutions to better manage coastal and ocean resources. In addition, in the developing world, which is heavily reliant on these resources for sustenance, there is limited internal capacity to cope with these problems.
As a leader in understanding and managing ocean and coastal ecosystems, NOS is uniquely positioned to assist international partners in building the technical, policy, and organizational tools for effective stewardship of ocean and coastal ecosystems.
NOS will strengthen U.S. and international capacity for stewardship of ocean and coastal ecosystems through international partnerships to develop, exchange, and implement: