Anglers surf-fishing in southern California
Anglers surf-fishing near Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California. Credit: William B. Folsom, NMFS/Courtesy of NOAA

AGU’s Position Statement Committee yesterday formalized a revision of a position statement that has roots stretching back to 2005 when it was originally adopted.

The statement on the “Ocean Research and Education Are Foundations for Economic Growth” revision calls upon public and private entities to “forge cooperation and make bold investments that enable scientific discovery and solutions in ocean science to support the global economy.”

The updated statement recognizes that the ocean and its resources are vital to human livelihood: “In 2016 in the U.S., 52% of the population lived in coastal watershed regions generating nearly 57% of the nation’s GDP. Commercial fishing generates over $36B in income and more than one million jobs, while recreational fishing supports $14B in income and hundreds of thousands of additional jobs. In 2015, over 22% of U.S. domestic oil was produced from coastal and offshore waters.”

“Bold investments—as well as international, cross-disciplinary scientific research and education—are needed.”

However, increasing human populations are increasing pressures on the ocean’s ability to provide humanity with food, energy, and materials we increasingly rely on. The statement asserts that “science provides the new knowledge we need to respond to rising sea levels and ocean temperatures, the decline of fisheries, expansion of low oxygen zones, and changes in the chemistry of the ocean caused by increased carbon dioxide such as ocean acidification. Greater knowledge and prediction skills are urgent when we consider the effort, time, and costs of protecting infrastructure along coasts, rebuilding fish populations in our seas, developing new water resources for manufacturing and agriculture, and restoring communities in the wake of hazards.”

“The ocean, the largest home for life on our planet and the living heart of Earth’s climate system, is essential to the well-being of nations. Bold investments—as well as international, cross-disciplinary scientific research and education—are needed to unlock these benefits,” said Margaret Spring, chair of the AGU Position Statement Committee and vice president of Conservation & Science at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “These investments are essential to securing a sustainable and prosperous future, as global decision-makers prepare for the complex societal challenges ahead.”

Ocean Scientist Panel

The revised position statement was updated by a panel of five AGU ocean scientist members, including Jess Adkins, Smits Family Professor of Geochemistry and Global Environmental Science, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology; Charles Colgan, director of research, Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies; Kristina M. Gjerde, senior high seas adviser, Global Marine and Polar Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature; Christopher J. Gobler, Endowed Chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and codirector, Center for Clean Water Technology, Stony Brook University; and Susan Roberts, director, Ocean Studies Board, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

As an organization committed to promoting discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity, AGU develops and maintains position statements to provide scientific expertise on significant policy issues related to the understanding and application of the Earth and space sciences.

Learn more about AGU position statements.

—Alexandra Shultz (email:, Vice President, Public Affairs, AGU


Shultz, A. (2018), Ocean research and education are foundations for economic growth, Eos, 99, Published on 19 September 2018.

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