Mystic Aquarium scientist plays role in creating ocean climate plan for White House
Mystic — Pete Auster, the senior research scientist at Mystic Aquarium, is among a group of scientists and environmentalists who have drafted 31 pages of detailed recommendations to help the Biden administration develop the nation’s first comprehensive ocean climate action plan.
The Blueprint for Ocean Climate Action features recommendations in 12 areas including advancing marine protected areas, enhancing coastal resiliency, reducing plastic pollution, ending illegal fishing and human rights abuses in the seafood industry, phasing out offshore drilling and supporting a transition to renewable energy by expanding responsibly sited offshore wind projects.
The plan’s summary states “the blueprint outlines clear actions to improve sustainability, resilience, conservation, equity and justice. The successful implementation of these cross-cutting recommendations will leverage both the mitigation and adaptation power of the ocean and coastlines that will help the administration reach its climate and environmental justice goals.”
The plan has been supported by Mystic Aquarium and 92 other organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund, Surfrider Foundation, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, Patagonia, Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and the Ocean Conservancy.
Calling it a “large group project,” Auster explained Tuesday that the recommendations come from the evolving discussions that he and other scientists have been having on climate issues and possible solutions.
He said scientists spend a lot of time talking about the challenges facing the world’s oceans and climate but with the blueprint “we are looking for solutions.”
Auster explained the recommendations involve both natural sciences and social sciences because proposed solutions affect communities and human rights and now need to be turned into policy and legislation.
“The origins are science based but ultimately we want to bring forward recommendations that are embraced by society,” he said.
While his personal areas of interest are topics such as the role of marine protected areas, Auster said all areas of the blueprint are important.
“They all need to be addressed in substantive ways for us to win,” he said. “When we get to 2050 or 2010 we want to be able to tell our grandchildren we did all we could do to address this existential crisis.”
One area of the blueprint of particular interest to commercial fishermen in Stonington and residents in the New London area concerns the expansion of offshore wind power, as State Pier in New London is being developed into a wind energy hub.
Among its wind power recommendations are the following:
“State and federal agencies need to coordinate with Tribal governments, fishing industry representatives, local unions, offshore wind developers, scientists, the maritime industry , ratepayers, ocean advocates and other users of ocean space to facilitate and speed the deployment of responsible offshore wind in concert with existing ocean uses,” it states.
It also recommends reviewing the regulatory process and timeline and “develop specific recommendations that would increase certainty for wind energy developers, ensure conservation of ecosystem health, respect the rights of Tribes and affected communities, and achieve cost and price parity with fossil fuels.”
It recommends requesting additional funding for baseline data collection and fish surveys to help safeguard the environment and expedite the review process for wind projects in the studied areas. It also urges expanding the contingency fund to compensate fishermen for lost income or gear due to offshore wind installations.