news & updates
June 2021 | Issue 2
Florida Ocean Alliance supports Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation
The 2021 Florida Legislative session ended on April 30th, and the approved 2021-2022 budget contains robust conservation funding. Using federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act, Governor Ron Desantis has proposed $4.1 billion in recommended spending to aid Floridians in need and making significant investments in critical areas such as infrastructure, education, and workforce development to continue Florida’s rapid economic recovery. The recommendations include $1 billion to establish the Resilient Florida Grant Program, $500 million in grants to guard against sea level rise, $258.2 million in relief for Florida’s Seaports, and $50 million to the Economic Development Transportation Fund. With unanimous bipartisan support, the Florida House and Senate sent two bills (SB 1954/HB 7019) to the Governor to develop within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection a Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan and establish the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation within the University of South Florida. SB 1954 was signed into law by the Governor, but the budget bill has not yet been signed.

The Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation will be at the center of a collaborative effort to address the State's flooding and sea level rise. Based in St. Petersburg at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, the Hub will coordinate with State agencies and academic and research institutes to complete a comprehensive statewide flood vulnerability and sea level rise dataset and assessment. The project design will determine parameters to be measured, establish standard methods, and develop an open-source hydraulic model to include floodplain inundation mapping, flooding forecasts, future groundwater elevation conditions, economic damage, and loss estimates. The Hub will share its resources and expertise with established community-based programs implementing this work. Additionally, the Hub will train a workforce knowledgeable in flood and sea level rise research, prediction and adaptation, and mitigation strategies, thus arming the future generation with the tools they need to address the changing climate.

As a unique nonpartisan alliance of industry, academic, non-profit, and private sector entities in the State, the Florida Ocean Alliance supports and recognizes the importance of these bills. By recognizing and taking actions to address the issues of flooding and sea level rise, the Florida House and Senate are taking an important step toward protecting Florida’s citizens, its coastal infrastructure, and the economy. The proposed legislation introduces bold measures that closely align with strategies and actions recommended in FOA’s 2020 report, Securing Florida’s Blue Economy: A Strategic Policy Plan for Florida’s Oceans and Coasts, that identified coastal issues to grow and sustain Florida’s ocean and coastal-related industries. FOA stands ready to assist in the implementation of the bills’ recommendations.
Florida Ocean Alliance State Activity
The Florida Ocean Alliance strongly supports the safe resumption of cruise sailings to help recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Florida’s business community. Cruise lines are ready to provide safe service to their customers, and ships have been sailing since December outside of the U.S. One cruise company, Royal Caribbean Group, has carried more than 100,000 people safely already. Industry-wide, more than 350,000 guests have enjoyed safe, pleasant journeys throughout the world since July 2020. FOA has sent a support letter to the CDC, with copies to the congressional delegation.
March 15th declared Oceans Day
In recognition of the economic and environmental importance of Florida’s ocean resources, the Florida House and Senate declared March 15th Oceans Day. Laura DiBella, Florida Ocean Alliance Vice-Chair and Executive Director of the Florida Harbor Pilots Association, received resolutions from resolution sponsors Senator Gayle Harrell and Representative Chris Latvala at the Capitol. The annual Oceans Day events were not held this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affecting our State. We look forward to Oceans Day 2022 when we can celebrate together safely.
In the News
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Congress & Executive Branch News
Amid the Earth Day Climate Summit,
President Biden nominates Dr. Richard Spinrad to head NOAA and U.S. Representatives Champion Environmental Policy
As the Blue Economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has debuted its plan to make the country resilient to climate change. The White House hosted an Earth Day Leaders Summit on Climate, during which time President Biden nominated individuals to serve and further his Administration’s commitment to modern sustainable infrastructure and a clean energy future. Nominees include Dr. Richard Spinrad to serve as the Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the country’s premier climate science agency. Dr. Spinrad is currently a professor of oceanography at Oregon State University and is a former NOAA chief scientist and led NOAA’s research office and the National Ocean Service. During a recent Executive Session by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Dr. Spinard presented his priorities for NOAA: ensuring scientific integrity, continually strengthening and building partnerships, and expanding the range of products and services the agency delivers both nationally and locally. If confirmed by the Senate Committee, his nomination will go to the Senate floor.

“The Florida Ocean Alliance applauds the nomination of Dr. Rick Spinrad to serve as NOAA administrator. He is well qualified for this critical position, based on his administrative experience with NOAA, scientific expertise, and academic background.”
- Laura DiBella, FOA Vice Chair

During the two-day Summit on Climate, President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris met virtually with 40 other world leaders, including Pope Francis, to discuss a roadmap to a zero-net carbon future. In his opening address, President Biden committed the United States to cut plant-warming emissions in half by 2030 and laid out the International Climate Finance Plan, which mobilizes the trillions of dollars needed to build a clean-energy, job-rich path to meet this goal. The President said, “We are resolving to take action, not only our federal government but our cities and our states all across our country, small businesses, large corporations, American workers in every field.”

Using Earth Day as momentum to implement environmental change, two Florida members of Congress championed environmental policy measures. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14), Chair of the Select Committee of the Climate Crisis, reintroduced her bipartisan Florida Coastal Protection Act (H.R. 2836) with 20 Florida congressional cosponsors to permanently ban oil drilling off the Florida coast. “Here in the Sunshine State, our natural resources and beautiful beaches are central to our way of life and the cornerstone of our economy. We have seen the devastating impacts of oil and gas drilling off of our shores, and are coming together … to once again introduce legislation to protect our coast - permanently,” said Rep. Castor. Additionally, as co-chairs of the Congressional Estuary Caucus, U.S. Reps. Brian Mast (FL-18) and Bill Posey (FL-8) cosponsored legislation to capture the power of our ocean and estuaries to protect coastal blue carbon ecosystems. The ocean and coastal ecosystems are resilient and hold tremendous promise as a natural climate solution. These ecosystems, such as mangroves, seagrasses, and tidal marshes, remove carbon from the atmosphere and oceans and store them in plants and sediment, known as blue carbon. The Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act (116H5589) is part of the Climate Crisis Action Plan that would create a national map of coastal blue carbon ecosystems and their potential to sequester carbon, study how environmental stressors affect rates of carbon sequestration, improve protections for existing coastal blue carbon ecosystems and restore degraded ecosystems. Taken altogether, these momentous plans launched on Earth Day 2021 will prepare the United States for the changing world.
Boosting U.S. Leadership in Ocean Health
The Oceans Caucus Foundation hosted a virtual U.S. congressional briefing on April 8th, featuring a panel of government and industry ocean experts discussing the importance of U.S. investment in ocean health. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) suggested adding a significant ocean focus to the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better plan to elevate ocean health and secure funding. The main takeaway from this briefing was a unified message of commitment to partnerships across all sectors to better understand, appreciate, benefit from, and sustain the oceans. Bipartisan efforts are underway to boost U.S. leadership in ocean health; recent and introduced legislation include:

Florida Ocean Alliance Announcements
The Chief Science Officer leads the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency, established by Governor Ron DeSantis’s Executive Order 19-12. Dr. Rains will be responsible for ensuring key water quality objectives are communicated to the public and organize agency resources and scientific expertise, data, and research to focus on and solve complex challenges. Under his leadership, the Blue-Green Task Force will build on its efforts and put forth recommendations to protect Florida’s water quality through science-based, transparent initiatives.
The Board of Directors welcomes two new directors from FOA members Royal Caribbean Group and The Everglades Foundation
Josh Carroll leads Royal Caribbean Group's Destination Development function and Royal Caribbean International's Deployment planning organization. With his role leading Deployment, Josh and his team plan where Royal's fleet will operate and the itineraries and destinations guests will visit. Josh first joined Royal Caribbean in 2016, holding leadership roles in Marketing, Revenue, and Deployment Strategies. Prior to joining the Royal Caribbean Group, Josh spent several years at Carnival Cruise Lines and Bacardi in various financial, strategy, and commercial roles. Josh holds a degree in Biology from Union College and an MBA from Florida Atlantic University.

Bradley Watson is the senior policy advisor for The Everglades Foundation. Bradley is the former Executive Director of the Coastal States Organization, with a background in intergovernmental collaboration and cultivating relationships with a range of non-federal and Federal partners. Bradley has extensive experience both on and off the Hill working on appropriations and multiple iterations of the Water Resources Development Act. Bradley earned a J.D. from the evening program at The Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America and an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.
Members' Spotlight
ROFFS™ is a small scientific consulting company based in West Melbourne, Florida involved with fisheries oceanography, environmental science, and satellite remote sensing. Founded in 1986 by Mitchell A. Roffer, Ph.D., in Miami, Florida and now owned by Matthew A. Upton, ROFFS™ is best known for its customized fishing forecast analyses that are the result of the integration of real-time satellite imagery and other fisheries oceanographic data. ROFFS™ is intensively involved in a broad range of projects from ship routing, oil and gas offshore rig monitoring operations, research cruises, fisheries management, environmental monitoring, and applied scientific research and development. We specialize in monitoring the ocean conditions by satellite for a wide range of clients’ operational needs. Our analysts are experienced oceanographers with expertise in fisheries and remote sensing with fishing and marine science backgrounds. We also pride ourselves on customer service with an exceptional front office staff.

The main part of our service is providing customized analysis of the real-time ocean conditions for recreational and commercial fisherman to guide them to the best locations offshore to maximize their efforts in the most productive waters. We at ROFFS™ understand the importance of time. Therefore, all our products are designed to allow fishing vessels to concentrate their fishing effort in the most productive waters to increase operational efficiency and not waste time and fuel. Furthermore, we stay active in several science- and environmental-based organizations and are members of the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA), the Mid Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS), and on the board of the Florida Ocean Alliance. We also continue to collaborate with NOAA and NASA to use their updated satellite data and support.

You can visit our website www.roffs.com or on Facebook @roffsfishing or simply call our main office for details at 321-723-5759. 
Port Everglades, located in the heart of Greater Fort Lauderdale, is consistently ranked among the top three busiest cruise ports in the world. It’s one of the nation’s leading container ports and South Florida’s main seaport for receiving petroleum products, including gasoline, jet fuel, and alternative fuels. The Port’s diverse business lines helped maintain economic stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed infrastructure projects to move forward, including a Comprehensive Environmental Management Program that is gaining recognition for leading the way in port sustainability practices.

For decades, Port Everglades has proactively invested millions of dollars in building and maintaining its infrastructure to protect and improve the surrounding environment while facilitating business activities in world commerce and travel for South Florida. Last year, Port Everglades was nationally recognized for its environmental excellence. The Port received the National Association of Environmental Professionals’ 2020 Environmental Excellence Award, the North American Marine Environment Protection Association’s 2020 Marine Environment Protection Award for Ports, and the American Association of Port Authorities’ 2020 Award of Excellence for the Port Everglades Comprehensive Environmental Management Program. The Management Program’s goals and objectives successfully met compliance requirements and, more importantly, allowed the Port to voluntarily implement stewardship initiatives that benefit the environment holistically.

As a custodian of one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, Port Everglades remains steadfast in the dedication to preserving Florida’s natural wealth, which includes the ocean, coastline, estuaries, wetlands, and coral reefs. These riches provide a strong economy, a diversity of jobs and industries, and an enviable way of life. Maintaining a careful balance between commerce and the environment is essential for our region’s well-being.
Florida’s many ports are major contributors to its Blue Economy. In fact, South Florida has the distinction of being the cruise capital of the world and serves as the cargo gateway of the Americas and is the winter yacht capital. One of the challenges facing maritime industries these next few decades will be transitioning from high-carbon burning fossil fuels to low- or zero-carbon emissions. Clean, zero-carbon growth for the maritime sector is critical for future global prosperity, protecting the lives and livelihoods of those working across the blue economy. Lloyd’s Register has launched its Maritime Decarbonization Hub to support progress to a low-carbon future and will contribute to:

  • Credible thought leadership and guidance for the entire maritime industry
  • Influencing policy and regulation through evidence-based research
  • Working with clients to enable them to transition to zero-carbon vessels and supporting infrastructure
  • Enabling the safe adoption of new technologies and alternative fuels
  • Training people to safely design, build and operate zero-carbon vessels and infrastructure

The Hub will provide shipowners, operators, and other key stakeholders in the supply chain with guidance at every step of their journey as they seek to reduce the carbon intensity of their businesses. It will also spur collaboration and partnerships. Collaboration is absolutely key in making the transition to a zero-emission world fleet safe and affordable and to give confidence to the industry and stakeholders that together, we can realize the zero-carbon future of the maritime industry.
For more information, visit Maritime Decarbonisation Hub (lr.org)

The Everglades Foundation is the only science-based non-profit organization dedicated solely to restoring and protecting America’s Everglades. Over the past century, Lake Okeechobee’s natural southerly flow of water was diverted to the east and west coasts to accommodate Florida’s 20th Century agriculture-based economy. Consequently, polluted water is released from the lake to the coasts of Florida causing harm, such as toxic algae blooms. Further, the Everglades and Florida Bay have received significantly diminished flows of much-needed freshwater. The algal blooms on the coasts, and the lack of freshwater to the south, have significant impacts on tourism, recreational fishing, and ecological and human health.

The Everglades Foundation works to reverse these threats by providing science-based solutions to clean water and send it south, as identified by its in-house team of Ph.D. scientists. At the heart of Everglades restoration is the precious resource that connects our habitats, communities, and 21st Century economy in Florida: water.

  • The Everglades includes Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, and 14 National Wildlife Refuges, all of which need clean freshwater.
  • The Everglades is home to 2,000 species of plants and animals, 78 of which are federally threatened or endangered.
  • The Everglades provides the daily water supply for 9 million Floridians and countless tourists and drives the tourism and hospitality, real estate, and recreation industries.

The Everglades Foundation is committed to its vision for an Everglades with abundant freshwater for consumption, enjoyment, ecological health, and economic growth for generations to come. Learn more at evergladesfoundation.org.
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) is a non-profit organization with the mission to conserve bonefish, tarpon and permit—the species, their habitats, and the larger fisheries they comprise. The organization pursues this mission through science-based conservation, education, and advocacy in Florida and across the Caribbean through staffed programs in the Bahamas, Belize, and Mexico.

Among its many notable accomplishments, BTT worked with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to improve flats fisheries management, establishing catch-and-release-only rules for bonefish and tarpon as well as a series of protections for spawning permits. In the Bahamas, BTT’s research helped to establish six national parks that harbor critical bonefish habitats. A new project launched this year seeks to restore mangroves devasted by Hurricane Dorian by planting 100,000 seedlings to kick-start regeneration.

BTT’s science-based approaches are guided by five staff scientists and further amplified by external grants made to collaborating scientists at leading universities. These include currents grants of $1M to UMASS Amherst to study tarpon spatial ecology and $3 million to FAU Harbor Branch to study bonefish reproduction. Over the past five years, BTT has recorded numerous discoveries in the fields of bonefish reproduction and the genetic connectivity of bonefish and tarpon populations across the Caribbean, among others.

A leading advocate for Everglades restoration, BTT has expanded its focus in recent years to tackle other challenges facing Florida’s multi-billion-dollar recreational fishing industry. These include supporting increased investment in wastewater infrastructure, which comes in response to mounting scientific evidence of contaminants in flats fish and habitats. BTT is also active in coastal habitat restoration and conservation.

“BTT is proud to be a member of the Florida Ocean Alliance,” says BTT President and CEO Jim McDuffie. “Together, we can enhance Florida’s coastal and ocean resources for the continued benefit of our state and people.”
The Florida Institute of Oceanography’s (FIO) mission is to enable marine and coastal science, technology, and education through infrastructure (research vessels and a marine laboratory) and programs for its members and facilitate partnerships among the membership. The 30-member FIO Consortium is comprised of universities in Florida’s State University System (SUS) and includes private institutions, non-profit and for-profit corporations, and state agencies. FIO is designated as an Academic Infrastructure Support Organization, but the reach extends much further. FIO hosts two field study courses for SUS students, promotes marine research and education, enhances public awareness of ocean sciences, explains the importance of the coastal ocean to Florida, leverages public and private investments to increase its members’ capabilities, and informs public policy development and decision-making.

Under its new director, Dr. Monty Graham, FIO is poised to advance the FIO mission by extending its scientific, social, and economic reach. Dr. Graham, who joined FIO this past January, is especially motivated to enhance the convening power of FIO to build consensus areas that can lead to increased support for its members. This includes taking the lead on programs that require a broad base of member involvement and using the FIO Council to endorse and promote FIO-led statewide initiatives. 
The Florida Institute of Oceanography is excited to navigate its members through what many experts refer to as “the era of exponential change.” The COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption to operations amplified the importance of accelerations in advancements such as artificial intelligence, automation, and human connectivity. FIO is thinking big and swiftly adapting its operations and influence by developing webinar-based professional courses, widening its reach to university faculty outside of marine concentrations, automating its asset request/forms processes, and cultivating the private marine sector.

Jacksonville University (JU) established the Marine Science Research Institute (MSRI) as a premier biological and environmental research and education facility. Part of a planned complex focusing on the St. Johns River, MSRI opened in 2010 as a Gold-certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design facility. In addition to housing classroom and laboratory space to support the Biology and Marine Science programs at JU, the MSRI is home to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Laboratory, the Millar Wilson Laboratory for Chemical Research, and the St. Johns Riverkeeper. Together they perform diverse studies of local freshwater, estuarine, and saltwater ecosystems and work closely with professors and students to connect concepts in the classroom with applications in the workplace. JU offers undergraduate and master’s degrees in Marine Science and a dual degree including a Master of Public Policy.

Research activities conducted by faculty and students at the MSRI range from nearshore to oceanic, microbes to macrofauna, coral reefs to diamondback terrapins to oceanographic drifters. JU MSRI is the academic home of OCEARCH, the world’s largest, ongoing white shark research project. A new facility with dockage for the M/V OCEARCH is planned in Mayport in partnership with the City of Jacksonville. In addition to the OCEARCH vessel, JU MSRI has both small boats and a Coast Guard-certified pontoon research vessel. The RV Larkin is JU’s own “floating classroom,” which is fully equipped with on-board lab stations and capable of accommodating up to 28 students. These unprecedented hands-on research experiences naturally foster success in undergraduate and postgraduate fields. With state-of-the-art classrooms and labs; a fleet of boats from small to large; faculty, staff, and students conducting lab- and field-based research; and numerous, varied collaborations with local, regional, national, international institutions; the JU MSRI strives to be a leader in scientific research and education.
Allow me to be exuberant about this … Cruising from Florida is back! As scientific research and vaccines advanced to combat and treat COVID-19 and pull through the global pandemic, the calls for a return to cruising from Florida got louder. Workers dependent on the cruise industry, such as port workers, pilot boat captains, taxi drivers, travel agents, food vendors, and tour operators, rank among those who suffered significantly during the pandemic. Numerous stakeholders across Florida were constantly communicating about implementing health and safety protocols and requirements to protect crew, guests, and destination communities. At every level, the elected leadership played critical roles in advocating for the safe return of cruising—thousands of everyday citizens and cruise lovers made their voices heard. And here we are today, in June, Celebrity Edge will be the first cruise ship to operate out of a U.S. port since March 2020, sailing from Port Everglades.

The year-plus hiatus is finally ending, and the billions of dollars of commerce associated with the industry in Florida will hasten the economic recovery. The industry workers and thousands of other businesses fuel the economic engine of the cruise industry in the State. The safe return to cruising would not have been possible without the collaboration and support of Florida’s coastal communities, including the major cruise lines that maintain their administrative and port operations offices and facilities throughout the Sunshine State. With so much at stake, continued vigilance is necessary to minimize negative impacts to the ocean economy that so many Floridians depend on. The cruise industry can now look forward to doing what they do best, creating vacation memories on the ocean that last a lifetime.

(FOA Chair)
Florida Ports Council
Laura DiBella
(FOA Vice-Chair)
Florida Harbor Pilots Association
Richard Dodge, Ph.D.
(FOA Treasurer)
Nova Southeastern University
Jerry Sansom
(FOA Secretary)
Organized Fishermen of Florida
Anne Birch
The Nature Conservancy
James Cantonis
Armaly Sponge Company
Josh Carroll
Royal Caribbean Group
Michael P. Crosby, Ph.D.
Duane E. De Freese, Ph.D.
Indian River Lagoon Council
FOA Executive Committee
Monty Graham, Ph.D.
Florida Institute of Oceanography
Kumar Mahadevan, Ph.D.
Florida Ocean Alliance,
Founding Member and
FOA Executive Committee
Jim McDuffie
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
Sherry Larkin, Ph.D.
Florida Sea Grant College Program
Denise McCafferty
Lloyd's Register
James F. Murley, Esq.
Miami-Dade County
Florida Ocean Alliance,
Founding Member and
FOA Executive Committee
Jackie Larson
Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association
David McDonald
McDonald, Miller, & Coleman LLC
FOA Executive Committee
Ellen Prager, Ph.D.
Earth2Ocean, Inc.
Phil Purcell
Marine Industries Association of South Florida
Robert Salonen, CEcD
Florida Institute of Technology
Megan Stolen
Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute
Jim Sullivan, Ph.D.
Florida Atlantic University- Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
Matthew Upton
Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecasting Svc.
Bradley Watson
The Everglades Foundation
Jeff Watters
The Ocean Conservancy
Glenn Wiltshire
Port Everglades
Julie Wraithmell
Audubon of Florida
Lenore Alpert, Ph.D.
(Executive Director, FOA)
The Florida Ocean Alliance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, private-public partnership of private industry, trade, academic and environmental organizations promoting awareness and understanding of the ocean’s importance to the economy and environment of Florida.