New Science Program to Focus on Restoring Ocean Health

Contact: Justin Kenney, 215.575.4816, Margaret Bowman, 202.207.2131

Conshohocken, Pa. - 08/03/2004 - The Lenfest Foundation, Inc. announced the establishment of the Lenfest Ocean Program, a six-year, $20 million applied research initiative, to further understanding of the causes, consequences and solutions to problems affecting the sea and to promote the sustainable management of ocean resources. The announcement comes at a time when scientists, fishermen, and policy makers alike are calling for increased support of ocean research. "The conservation of ocean habitat is a vital part of the public trust, yet we know relatively little about life in the sea," said Gerry Lenfest, Chairman of the Lenfest Foundation, Inc. "If we are to meet its responsibility as stewards of the oceans, we must increase our understanding of the problems affecting the world’s marine environment, and move more aggressively to identify and implement solutions before it is too late. That is the goal of the Lenfest Ocean Program." 

The establishment of the Lenfest Ocean Program coincides with heightened interest in the health of the oceans and conservation of ocean wildlife. Two national commissions-the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy-have recently called for national policies to reverse the decline in the health of ocean habitat and wildlife. In particular, both commissions recommended doubling the federal budget for ocean research, which at $755 million is less than four percent of the nation’s annual expenditure for basic scientific research. Congress has responded to the commission’s recommendations with legislation to establish national ocean policies. 

"Two national commissions and several groundbreaking scientific studies have given us the clearest picture yet of what pollution, development, over fishing, and mismanagement are doing to the oceans," said Margaret Bowman, director of the Lenfest Ocean Program, which has been established at The Pew Charitable Trusts. "The Lenfest Ocean Program will help to shed further light on some of the most critical marine issues facing policymakers in the upcoming years." 

The Lenfest Program will produce and communicate a body of scientific, economic and technical information and recommendations that are specifically geared toward informing and promoting the sustainable management of ocean resources. The areas of immediate focus are: 

  • Ecosystem Impacts of Fishing. Little is known about the fish species that we take from the oceans. Only one third of all commercially fished stocks in U.S. waters have even been assessed, and 30 percent of the fish populations that have been assessed are overexploited to some extent. Further research is needed to understand the impacts to date of fishing on marine ecosystems, how these systems are currently being impacted, and what the likely future consequences to these systems will be if present trends continue.
  • Socio-Economic Impacts of Current and Proposed Fishing Regimes. Informed decision making about fishing policy, and the broader management of ocean resources, must take into account both the biological and the socio-economic consequences of policy alternatives. Just as there is a need for better ecosystem data, there is a striking paucity of reliable information on the economic and social impacts of current policies and practices and on what the future consequences are likely to be of different management approaches.
  • Ecosystem-Based Management of Marine Systems. Over the past five years there has been a shift in thinking among marine scientists from a single-species approach to fisheries management to an approach that considers the entire ecosystem. New management approaches need to be developed and evaluated in order to put this theory into practice.
As it pursues these and other research goals, the Lenfest Ocean Program will focus on four objectives: 

  1. Furthering scientific understanding of the changing dynamics of ocean systems and life in the sea;
  2. Providing policymakers with information that is new, compelling and helpful in formulating solutions to ocean problems, and shedding further light on areas that have been characterized by controversy and lack of clarity;
  3. Recruiting world-class researchers and technical experts to ensure that the information, insights and recommendations emanating from the work are of the highest scientific caliber; and 
  4. Communicating research findings in ways that are accessible to policy makers, resource managers, the media and the public.
The Lenfest Foundation, Inc., was founded in 2000 by H. F. (Gerry) and Marguerite Lenfest. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting programs in the areas of education, arts and the environment. The establishment of the Lenfest Ocean Program reflects an increased investment in environmental causes by the Lenfest Foundation. In 2004 the Foundation also supported the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s conservation of ocean and wildlife habitat in the Chesapeake Bay, and the Earth Institute of Columbia University in its involvement in helping to achieve sustainable economies in rural sections of Africa and in convening the world’s experts in a series of roundtables to arrive at a consensus on practical solutions to reduce global warming. 

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