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News from the National Academies
Date: Oct. 26, 1999
Contacts: Molly Galvin, Media Relations Officer
Jennifer Cavendish, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Stronger Framework Could Lead
To Significant Ocean Studies with Mexico

WASHINGTON -- Joint research activities between scientists in the United States and Mexico in shared oceanic and coastal areas have been hindered by language and cultural differences, national political boundaries, and a disparity in funding and other resources, according to a new report from a joint committee of the National Research Council and the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias.

Most significantly, the committee found, support for ocean research in Mexico is insufficient to sustain scientists already working in the field and is inadequate for a binational response to ocean-related environmental problems. The report offers examples of significant research that could be conducted binationally in the Pacific Ocean, the Gulfs of California and Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea, if greater support could be obtained. The committee recommended that the Mexican infrastructure be strengthened through more focused attention to ocean science activities, joint research, and personnel exchanges for education and training. Problems to be tackled range from coastal zone management and biological diversity to fisheries management and water quality and quantity issues.

"At present, the lack of an institutional focus for ocean sciences in Mexico hinders cooperation between the nations," the report says. "The Mexican federal government should examine the merits of creating an agency responsible for marine affairs and ocean information services, including ocean sciences and technology, either as a new agency or placed within an existing one." Such an entity would be able to cooperate with U.S. agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and could coordinate the application of ocean science to environmental and societal needs in Mexico.

The ocean areas separated by the U.S.-Mexico border are unified natural systems that are linked by ocean currents, large-scale mixing in each region, and animal migrations. In the shared coastal areas -- as well as in the adjacent international waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean, and Caribbean Sea -- actions taken by one nation affect the other, the committee said.

For example, because the Gulf of Mexico is a semi-enclosed basin, its currents can circulate pollutants and living organisms throughout the entire region. Additionally, the open Pacific coast and the Gulf of California are physically connected and share many biological and geological features.

The committee made several recommendations that could help foster greater cooperation between the two nations in solving problems related to their shared and adjacent bodies of water. Among these recommendations:

> The United States and Mexico should develop collaborative activities related to the ocean sciences that could be funded through the North American Free Trade Agreement's Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

> The two countries should study the feasibility of establishing an organization to foster cooperative research, similar to the European Science Foundation which allocates several hundred million dollars each year to fund research in areas of multinational European interest, including marine science.

> Government agencies and private scientific organizations in the United States and Mexico should promote programs through which students, faculty, technicians, and government officials can conduct joint research and share information. Both countries should hold scientific symposia and provide other pertinent training and laboratory experiences for students and staff in the neighboring country. They also should encourage communication between scientists and industries with marine activities, such as oil and gas extraction, fisheries, and waste disposal.

> The Mexican and U.S. governments should establish cooperative oceanic and atmospheric observing systems that will enhance regional ocean monitoring efforts and serve as part of a global system. The primary goal of an ocean observing system is the long-term collection of information and the distribution of data for weather and climate prediction, efficient fisheries management, maintenance of marine ecosystems and biodiversity of the ocean, and efficient use of nonrenewable ocean resources. It also would help scientists assess the impact of human activities on the environment.

The committee also recommended establishing additional communications links, including Web sites, teleconferencing facilities, and computer databases, to improve the flow of information between U.S. and Mexican scientists and government officials.

The study was funded in the United States by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and National Research Council, and in Mexico by the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias. The National Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.

Read the full text of Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together for free on the Web, as well as more than 1,800 other publications from the National Academies. Printed copies are available for purchase from the National Academy Press Web site or at the mailing address in the letterhead; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and Public Information at the letterhead address (contacts listed above).


NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources
Ocean Studies Board

ACADEMIA MEXICANA DE CIENCIAS

Joint Working Group on Ocean Sciences

Agustín Ayala-Castañares (co-chair)
Professor, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
México D.F.

Robert A. Knox (co-chair)
Research Oceanographer and Associate Director
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego

Joaquín Eduardo Aguayo-Camargo
Professor, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
México D.F.

Daniel P. Costa
Professor of Biology and Vice Chair, Department of Biology, and
Associate Director of the Institute of Marine Science
University of California, Santa Cruz

Elva G. Escobar-Briones
Associate Professor, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and
Affiliate Research Professor
Texas A&M University, College Station

D. John Faulkner
Professor of Marine Chemistry
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego

Artemio Gallegos-García
Professor, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
México D.F.

Gerardo Gold-Bouchot
Professor and Chair, Marine Resources Department
Centro de Investigaciones y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional
Mérida, Yucatán

Efraín Gutierrez-Galindo
Senior Researcher and Director
Instituto de Investigaciones Oceanologicas
Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Ensenada

Adriana Huyer
Professor of Physical Oceanography
Oregon State University, Corvallis

Dale C. Krause
Professor
University of California, Santa Barbara

Daniel Lluch-Belda
Professor
Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas del Noroeste
La Paz, Baja California Sur

Christopher S. Martens
Professor of Marine Sciences, Marine Science Program
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Mario Martínez-García
Professor
Centro de Investigaciones Científicas del Noroeste, S.C.
La Paz, Baja California Sur

Christopher N.K. Mooers
Professor of Applied Marine Physics and
Director, Ocean Pollution Research Center and the Ocean Prediction Experimental Laboratory
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
University of Miami

José Luis Ochoa de la Torre
Researcher and Teacher
Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada
Ensenada, Baja California

Gilbert T. Rowe
Professor and Head, Department of Oceanography
Texas A&M University, College Station

Luis A. Soto
Head, Benthic Ecology Laboratory
Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
México D.F.

Francisco Vicente-Vidal Lorandi
Professor of Oceanography and Applied Ocean Sciences, and
Head, Oceanographic and Ocean Engineering Research Group
Centro de Investigación Científica Aplicada y Tecnologia Avanzada
Instituto Politécnico Nacional
Cuernavaca, Morelos

Víctor M. Vicente-Vidal Lorandi
Professor of Oceanography and Applied Ocean Sciences
Centro de Investigación Científica Aplicada y Tecnologia Avanzada
Instituto Politécnico Nacional
Cuernavaca, Morelos

RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

Edward R. Urban Jr.
Study Director