news & updates
March 2021 | Issue 1
Florida Ocean Alliance State Activity
Securing Florida's Blue Economy
Strategic Policy Plan for Florida's Oceans and Coasts
As Florida recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical to focus on economic recovery and growth opportunities associated with Florida's Blue Economy. These opportunities and the bold actions needed are outlined in recommendations of the 2020 Strategic Plan “Securing Florida’s Blue Economy: A Strategic Plan for Florida’s Oceans and Coasts.” The Plan was called for and supported by a grant in 2019 from the Florida Legislature to the Florida Ocean Alliance (FOA). 
The Strategic Plan's top priority action is to create a forward-thinking, executive-level, statewide, public-private partnership. The purpose of this partnership is to bring together key representatives from the public sector and private industry so they can apply their experience, expertise, and resources in solving Florida's ocean and coastal issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic that began affecting Florida in March 2020 has resulted in a tragic loss of life and significant direct and indirect economic losses. As public and private agencies move from emergency response to recovery, long-term investment and management solutions are needed. Florida has an opportunity to make strategic decisions and investments in its Blue Economy to restore prosperity, improve resilience, and promote sustainability. This Strategic Plan focuses on vulnerabilities, threats, and opportunities that existed before the pandemic and will persist after it. Read more on these high-priority strategies and actions.

The overall impact of the pandemic on Florida's Blue Economy is still unknown. However, the FOA economic report that was part of the Strategic Plan provides an economic baseline for the pre-COVID Blue Economy that can be used to evaluate short-term economic impacts and long-term recovery. The Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research published Florida: An Economic Overview in December 2020, which details the Coronavirus impact on Florida's GDP.

The High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy says investment in these four key ocean intervention areas could help aid economic recovery both now and in the future:
  • conservation and restoration of mangroves
  • decarbonization of the shipping industry
  • scaling up offshore wind production
  • increasing sustainable protein from the ocean
According to their new report, A Sustainable Ocean Economy by 2050, every dollar invested in a sustainable ocean economy can yield at least five times the return in benefits. Focusing on the next four years, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released its Blue Economy Strategic Plan 2021-2025. The Strategic Plan focuses on five sectors that NOAA will advance through agency-wide initiatives:
  • marine transportation
  • ocean exploration
  • seafood competitiveness
  • tourism and recreation
  • coastal resilience
NOAA plans to further enhance these sectors by leveraging public-private partnerships, harnessing emerging technologies, and developing innovative STEM education and outreach efforts to train the next generation of Blue Economy leaders. 
In the News
New Year, New Big Ocean Win - Ocean Conservancy

The new year started with a major ocean win that you may have missed. Buried in between the holiday downtime and the start of a new year, the White House level Ocean Policy Committee (OPC) officially became formalized into law as a part of the...

Read more
Ocean investment could aid post-Covid-19 economic recovery

A new report by the World Resources Institute shows how investment in sustainable ocean management could support industries impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, such as fisheries and tourism, and provide minimum net returns of $8.2 trillion over ...

Read more
Congress & Executive Branch News
Biden-Harris administration takes action to prioritize climate change
Florida Ocean Alliance Announcements
Restoring and Growing Florida’s
Blue Economy
Monday ~ March 15, 2021
The Florida Ocean Alliance is working with Florida legislators to declare March 15th Florida Oceans Day in recognition of the economic and environmental importance of Florida's ocean and coastal resources and to promote public awareness. The Senate resolution is being sponsored by Sen. Gayle Harrell (R-District 25).
Events celebrating Oceans Day will not be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Capitol restrictions. Next year we hope to continue hosting Ocean and Coastal Exhibits at the Capitol organized by the Florida Institute of Oceanography and a Legislative Reception hosted by Mote Marine Laboratory.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection awards innovative technologies grant to FOA members
Teaming up with St. Johns Water Management District and StormCenter Communications, Inc, FOA members, Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, Earth2Ocean, Inc, and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, have been awarded an Innovative Technologies Grant from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection to use patented geospatial technology to integrate and translate harmful algal bloom (HAB) data into usable products for a diversity of stakeholders. Using GeoCollaborate (GC), a unique technology developed through the Federal SBIR Program, trusted HAB and related data from existing providers, portals, hubs, and websites will be integrated to create a unique collaborative environment. GC will be used to help track, monitor, examine probability forecasting, and respond to HABs specifically in the Indian River Lagoon NEP and then as a demonstration project for wider Florida. Data in disparate formats will be shared collaboratively across platforms synchronously on any device and an easy interface established to communicate to the public and stakeholders, such as public health officials and tourism operators.
New Novel Empowers Young Readers to Take Action
April 1st marks the publication of Escape Greenland, FOA board member Dr. Ellen Prager’s second eco-adventure novel in her Wonder List Adventure series for middle graders. The book combines action, humor, and relatable characters with fun learning about science, nature, and climate change.

"Chills and Thrills Aplenty” - Kirkus Reviews

All the books in the series include maps and a back section entitled Real vs. Made-Up that reveals parts of the book based on real science and parts that are pure fiction. Published by Tumblehome Books, the series targets readers 7 to 12 years old and is available for pre-order through online or in-store outlets, such as AmazonIndieBound, and Barnesandnoble, Tumblehome.
"This book takes the adrenaline level of Escape Galapagos and dials it up to 10! Ezzy and Luke's Greenland adventure will have your palms sweating and your heart pounding from the first chapter. Racing alongside Ezzy and Luke as they try to stave off an ice-melting disaster in Escape Greenland, young readers will feel empowered to take action against climate change in their own communities."
- Susan Tate
Award-winning middle school teacher
April 13-16, 2021
FOA Executive Director Dr. Lenore Alpert and Marcy Frick, Senior Water Resources Engineer at Tetra Tech, will be presenting on FOA’s Strategic Plan at the National Stormwater and Watershed Conference. Dr. Alpert and Dr. William Stronge previously presented on the Strategic Plan and the economic study at the Annual Conference of the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association in November 2020.
Chief Bay Officer appointed to lead protection and restoration of Biscayne Bay
On January 8, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced that Irela Bagué would join the County as its first-ever Chief Bay Officer. In this new role, Bagué will advise the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners on all issues relating to the health of the Bay, and act as a liaison between departments, boards, external agencies, stakeholder groups, and local, state, and federal governments. She will also work to advance the recommendations presented in the Biscayne Bay Task Force Report in an effort to meet objectives laid out in the Resilient305 Strategy to safeguard the natural environment and preserve and protect Biscayne Bay.

“We must take immediate action to preserve Biscayne Bay, and nobody is better prepared to help lead that effort than Irela,” said Mayor Levine Cava. “She brings deep subject matter expertise and an outstanding career as an advocate and communicator to this critical role helping move forward policies to preserve and protect the Bay.”

Bagué said, "I started my career in Miami-Dade County, and I'm proud to rejoin the County during this pivotal moment of challenges and opportunities. As a longtime advocate of Biscayne Bay restoration and water resources, it is an absolute honor to serve as Miami-Dade County’s first Chief Bay Officer and advise Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and the Board of County Commissioners to help chart a long-term course for a resilient and healthy Bay.”
Members' Spotlight
Florida’s Beaches Continue to be a Sight to Sea
If there is one upshot during this stressful and challenging pandemic, it’s that people are spending more time outdoors. In Florida, that means more time enjoying the sun, sand, and surf. Our beaches have historically provided an escape for residents and visitors, and this pandemic-time is no different. Florida’s pristine beaches form the core of the state’s tourism industry, being the #1 attraction and serving as an essential feature of its Blue Economy. However, Florida beaches are eroding at an alarming rate due to manmade and natural activities, including rising sea levels, putting at risk a cornerstone of its Blue Economy.

Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association (FSBPA) is a strong advocate of Florida’s beach preservation program, working with local, state, and federal agencies to promote effective beach management. Thanks largely to FSBPA’s efforts, Florida leads the nation in beach preservation. They provide information to the Florida Legislature and Congress on beach preservation issues and funding. Sea level rise and coastal resiliency issues are leading discussions this year in the environmental policy and appropriations committees, and FSBPA is committed to supporting measures that promote and improve coastal resiliency, as called for in FOA’s 2021 Strategic Plan.

Recognizing the benefits of healthy beaches, state leaders passed HB 325 into law, revamping the state’s beach management program and its comprehensive planning tools that guide restoration activities for critically eroded beaches. These new criteria gave Legislators confidence that projects receiving funds represent the best investment of state dollars and support the projects with the greatest need. Last year the Legislature dedicated $50M annually for beach preservation. HB 325 will improve the statewide beach management program’s effectiveness and work with local governments to protect and restore the state’s 423 miles of critically eroded beaches. These forward-thinking advancements will ensure healthy beaches are part of the solution to our economic recovery after Covid-19 and for years to come.
Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter @FSBPA. 
Keep an eye out for information about our upcoming summer seminar series! 
Florida Ports Lead the Nation in Environmental Achievement and Innovation in the Maritime Industry
Florida ports are dedicated to economic development and sustainable port operations that preserve and enhance the state’s natural resources. Closely connected to waters and coastal ecosystems, Florida’s seaports have a responsibility to protect these important resources. Ports leverage their existing environmental management programs and establish new partnerships by joining key ecological stewardship programs, like the Green Marine program. The Florida Ports Council, Port Everglades, Port Pensacola, and Port Canaveral are all active Green Marine members. Green Marine is an environmental certification program for the North American, European, and Canadian marine industries. It is a voluntary, transparent and inclusive initiative that addresses critical environmental issues through its 14 performance indicators. Green Marine annually reviews, strengthens, and expands its environmental certification program criteria. Additionally, Florida’s seaports and their industry partners are working to improve efficiencies by investing in innovations. This includes using domestically produced natural gas as a cleaner and less costly alternative fuel. According to the Alternative Fuels Study, a report released by the Florida Ports Council, there is an increased demand for alternative fuels in both the American and worldwide transportation industry as more stringent air quality regulations are implemented globally for port operations and maritime vessels. Port Pensacola contributes to its Blue Economy through innovative oyster farming with port tenant Pensacola Bay Oysters. Not only do the oysters clean and filter the bay and estuary water, but the oyster spat is then used for aquaculture operations across the Gulf Coast, providing income and job opportunities to local residents. By implementing best management practices and innovation, Florida seaports are committed to making a positive impact on our waters’ protection and health. Our shared commitment to sustainable port operations benefits the state and its future generations.
Last year was a roller coaster ride for the marine industry. It started at a slow, steady pace. By March, the lockdown had put marine businesses in survival mode, along with the rest of the economy. During this time, Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) advocated recognizing marine businesses as essential, and operations to maintain vessels soon resumed. Additionally, Customs and Border Protection determined yacht crews were exempt from the travel ban and were permitted to travel to the U.S. By April, many people had discovered the joys of the outdoors while socially distancing on the water and boat sales began to rise. Throughout the summer, MIASF and their partner Informa Markets developed an “All Secure” plan to safely host the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), which came to fruition at the end of October. FLIBS was the first major outdoor event in Florida, and participating exhibitors were rewarded with record sales.
The year ended with positive numbers. Florida state reported 270,000 marine industry jobs, with Broward county accounting for 121,000 of those jobs, reflecting an increase of 8,000 jobs over 2019. Demand for marine employees bolstered enrollment in the Yacht Service Technician Apprenticeship program, with January 2021 enrollment three times that of the inaugural year. The marine industry's economic impact on the state is $24.6 billion, with 32% of boat purchases from first-time buyers. This year, MIASF continues to adapt as March’s Annual Waterway Cleanup enters its 44th year. This year the participants will not be greeted by site coordinators but will sign up and report their accomplishments by the CleanSwell app, keeping everyone safe and socially distant.
The sole purpose of Florida's most highly skilled mariners is to protect Florida’s 14 coastal economic drivers, its seaports, and the fragile environment that surrounds them. The Florida Harbor Pilots Association, and the just shy of 100 harbor pilots it represents across the state, with their in-depth local waterway knowledge, experience and expertise, has been in existence since 1868. Well trained harbor pilots are essential for protecting marine environments, and Florida’s Harbor Pilots are among the best of the best. “They are the Top Gun equivalent in the maritime world,” says Laura DiBella, Executive Director of the Florida Harbor Pilots Association and Vice-Chair of Florida Ocean Alliance. Becoming a licensed harbor pilot is a crowning achievement for the master mariner and requires extensive time at sea along with rigorous training. During this time, harbor pilots learn the intricate details and challenges of the local waterways including natural habitats, narrow channels, and docking/undocking maneuvers. In addition to ensuring the safe navigation of vessels, harbor pilots are often called upon by Florida’s port authorities to assist with the planning of new seaport development and new ship operations. Florida’s Harbor Pilots keep both the economy and the environment a top safety priority.

The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) is a diverse ecosystem that stretches approximately 156 miles along the east-central Florida coast. The health of IRL habitats is vital to producing the abundant resources that help our economy. It is a crucial driver to the wealth and health of Florida's economy by providing jobs, housing, tourism, industry, and recreation. More than 4,000 species of plants and animals live in the lagoon watershed, making this region one of the most biodiverse places in the continental U.S. Maintaining that diversity is imperative to the ecosystem's health and to the resources it provides. Water quality is essential not only to the lagoon's ecosystem but also to protect public health. Poor water quality affects the diverse habitats in the lagoon, which affects the economy by degrading the commercial and recreational value of our water resources. The excessive nutrients carried in runoff and baseflow from surrounding tributaries directly impacts water quality in the lagoon, leading to numerous algae blooms, loss of seagrass habitat, massive fish kills, and muck deposits.

In 1991, the IRL was established as an Estuary of National Significance and is now part of a national network of twenty-eight estuary programs established under the Federal Clean Water Act and administered nationally by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Today, the IRL National Estuary Program is sponsored by the IRL Council, which recently worked with the Association of National Estuary Programs to secure Congressional reauthorization of the National Estuary Program (Section 320 Clean Water Act) and double the authorized funding amount from $26.5 million to $50 million annually for FY 2021-2026. Additionally, the 2021 Indian River Lagoon Climate-Ready Estuary Report was adopted that includes risk-based vulnerability assessments and action recommendations. Working together, we will solve the problems facing the IRL.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Together, scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium (Mote) and their supporters have achieved remarkable advances in marine science, technology, education, and conservation for more than 65 years. This nonprofit research organization is comprised of world-class marine scientists committed to the belief that the conservation and sustainable use of our oceans begins with research and education. Mote’s research spans a broad range of marine science, including studies of coral health and disease, the effects of toxic substances on humans and the environment, the health of wild fisheries, and the development of sustainable and successful fish restocking and food production techniques.

Last summer, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Initiative. This Initiative, led by Mote in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, addresses the impact Florida red tide has on the environment, economy, and quality of life in Florida. A key part of furthering Florida red tide research is the need to safely test various mitigation compounds and technologies through a tiered approach. Researchers use lab-cultured supplies of Karenia brevis (the microalgae responsible for Florida red tide) and use it in lab experiments with mitigation compounds. To accomplish large-scale red tide mitigation experiments, Mote created a cutting-edge experimental facility at their Mote Aquaculture Research Park in east Sarasota, approximately 15 miles inland. The facility is free for researchers funded by the Initiative, allowing for safe and controlled testing before pilot field implementation. Initiative funding has allowed Mote to continue expanding the vital testing of mitigation products to find those that kill the microalgae and minimize the Karenia brevis toxin’s impact. Mote has examined over 100 chemicals and compounds, and early results are promising on numerous mitigation options for expanded testing.

In addition to their research, Mote focuses on engagement and communication with the public through their public Aquarium, which features animals and exhibits such as manatees, sea turtles, sharks, and the current temporary exhibit Wild Kratts®: Ocean Adventure!. Mote also conducts numerous education programs, such as experiences like Spring into Science and parent-friendly online programs.
Science Serving Florida's Coast is the goal of the Florida Sea Grant (FSG) program. We are a partnership between the Florida Board of Education, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Florida's citizens and governments. FSG envisions a future where people use our coastal and marine resources in ways that capture the economic and social benefits they offer while preserving their quality and abundance for future generations. Our mission is to support integrated research, education, and extension to conserve coastal resources and enhance economic opportunities for the people of Florida. We tap into more than 800 coastal and ocean scientists' research expertise at the state's 17 major universities and research laboratories. As an integral part of the University of Florida, one of the nation's leading Land Grant universities, we design our programs with their Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and coastal counties. Our 20 extension agents live and work in coastal communities. They have a breadth of experiences and tremendous trust from their local residents as reliable science-based information sources. Our statewide extension specialists lead highly relevant programs covering seafood safety, coastal ecology, economics, and coastal conservation law. Project coordinators develop targeted programs on combating coral disease, communicating about harmful algal blooms, and promoting sustainable fisheries.
Please find Florida Sea Grant on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @floridaseagrant
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters, and oceans and making cities more sustainable. We work closely with diverse partners on the ground, in the water, and throughout our coastal watersheds to implement nature-based solutions, combat water quality issues, restore fisheries, and lessen the impacts of rising seas. We’re using science and technology to meet ocean conservation challenges by providing online mapping tools and research to guide planning and infrastructure decisions. And we’re working with communities along our coasts to support the health of our estuaries, coral and oyster reefs, mangroves, and marshes.

TNC is committed to protecting and restoring the health of Florida’s oceans and iconic coastlines, with a focus on coastal resilience and adaptation to climate change. Along with agencies and other partners, we’re pioneering and supporting methods to restore natural infrastructure, such as mangroves and coral reefs in south Florida, that help protect coastal communities and provide habitat for wildlife. In Pensacola, we’re working with multiple stakeholders, from local fishermen to coastal engineers, to restore oyster habitat and the oyster fishery, including creating oyster reefs along 6.5 miles of shoreline in Pensacola to support the recovery of oysters that will help improve water quality and benefit the community.

We lend our conservation expertise to climate committees, task forces, and those in Tallahassee and Washington, DC, to inform legislation and funding to support ocean and coastal issues. Our local projects and collaborations serve as models for our work across North America and globally. We continue to welcome opportunities to engage in work across Florida to support conservation.

For more information about The Nature Conservancy in Florida, please contact Anne Birch or visit them at nature.org/florida, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
The Nature Conservancy and partners monitor restored oyster habitat in Punta Gorda, FL
© The Nature Conservancy/Anne Birch
Mangroves in Charlotte Harbor, FL
© Carlton Ward Jr.
Located in Fort Pierce, FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute is a leader in marine science, with critical research in areas including ecosystem conservation, sustainable aquaculture, ocean engineering and exploration, as well as the connection between ocean and human health. For 50 years, its research community of over 200 scientists, engineers, staff, and students have worked together toward a goal of “Ocean Science for a Better World.” In addition to highly impactful research, FAU Harbor Branch is committed to inspiring, educating, and training the next generation of professionals in STEM fields. FAU’s graduate and undergraduate programs offer opportunities for students to gain hands-on research experience while taking advantage of FAU Harbor Branch’s advanced laboratory resources and a diverse range of nearby habitats for field study. At the pre-collegiate level, FAU Harbor Branch educators collaborate with local school districts to provide immersive experiences to students through an array of unique hands-on programs. For the public, its Mission: Ocean Discovery outreach programs provide opportunities to learn from and connect with marine science experts. The Ocean Discovery Visitors Center is an on-site exhibition hall that serves as a valuable community resource and showcases decades of cutting-edge research as well as fascinating marine life and habitats. In addition, FAU Harbor Branch regularly offers behind-the-scenes tours, lecture series, citizen science activities, after-school programs, and special events that allow people of all ages to dive deeper into ocean science. Together, these efforts play a critical role in understanding and protecting marine environments and resources around the world, as well as fostering ocean literacy and stewardship among broader audiences.
An aerial photo of the FAU Harbor Branch campus in Fort Pierce, Florida
A FAU Harbor Branch graduate student conducting research
A guided tour of the Ocean Discovery Visitors Center
J. Stanley Payne
(FOA Chair)
Florida Ports Council
St. Lucie County Airport & Seaport
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
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
Sherry Larkin, Ph.D.
Florida Sea Grant College Program
Jackie Larson
Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association
Kumar Mahadevan, Ph.D.
Florida Ocean Alliance,
Founding Member and
FOA Executive Committee
Denise McCafferty
Lloyd's Register
David McDonald
McDonald, Miller, & Coleman LLC
FOA Executive Committee
Jim McDuffie
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
James F. Murley, Esq.
Miami-Dade County
Florida Ocean Alliance,
Founding Member and
FOA Executive Committee
Helen O'Connell
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
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.
Jeff Watters
The Ocean Conservancy
Glenn Wiltshire
Port Everglades
Julie Wraithmell
Audubon of Florida
Lenore Alpert, Ph.D.
(Executive Director)
Florida Ocean Alliance
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.