I may not have ended up in a tropical country this summer but my office in Heritage Harbor, only a few blocks from MIIS, is exactly the place to be for anyone interested in marine policy. Not only do we get picturesque views of the Monterey Harbor and surrounding bay, my office in the NOAA Marine Protected Areas Center is surrounded by dozens of similar government organizations and NGOs. This includes representation for the MBNMFS, Save the Whales, Oceana, The Nature Conservancy, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, staff offices for elected officials, and many more I haven’t come across yet.
In my office, I’ve been working on a desktop study of the extent of protection related to deep sea habitat in Marine Protected Areas (or lack thereof). The work itself is interesting yet demanding, requiring a lot of the analytical skills I’ve gained at MIIS.
I don’t want to make this post too political but it’s been a unique experience to work for a federally-funded, conservation-oriented organization (the Marine Protected Areas Center) during the current administration. The “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy”, an executive order signed in April, could open the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and other Marine Protected Areas to oil and gas exploration. Needless to say, people are very unsure of how to proceed at the Marine Protected Areas Center, where their mission is to connect MPA programs and improve the design, stewardship, and effectiveness of MPAs.
This executive order is extremely relevant to my deep-sea ecosystem research. By quantifying the extent of benthic protections, this report will let the current administration know if there are currently too many restrictions placed on MPAs regarding extractive industries. That could guide their decision of whether to reduced MPA restrictions or size to promote economic growth. The study is still in progress but it’s exciting (and a little intimidating) to know that my research could have an impact on some big decisions regarding MPAs.