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September 20, 1999

Gary Griggs to head newly formed UC Marine Council

The University of California has established a Marine Council to help coordinate marine research on the 10 UC campuses and provide information on ocean-related issues, university President Richard C. Atkinson announced last week.

Gary Griggs, professor of earth sciences and director of UCSC's Institute of Marine Sciences, will serve as the council chairman.
Gary Griggs

The new systemwide organization will facilitate research, education, and public service programs among the UC campuses, as well as programs involving private marine-related industries, private colleges, and marine-related not-for-profit organizations.

The Marine Council will also provide advice to local, regional, and state governmental agencies pertaining to California's ocean-related issues and concerns. One of the new organization's first assignments, at the request of Sen. Dede Alpert (D-San Diego), will be to appoint a committee of UC scientists to review the scientific information on a proposal to study decommissioning alternatives for offshore oil and gas facilities.

"The University of California has marine research and education capabilities that are unparalleled in the world," said Atkinson. "The University of California Marine Council will help bring those resources to the service of local, state, and federal agencies, as well as to other public and private entities."

California's l,000-mile coastline plays an important role in the state's economy. The state's six major ports have a combined economic impact of $3.4 billion annually, and a 1994 study concluded that seven ocean-dependent industries (fishing, mariculture, kelp and sea vegetable harvesting, offshore oil and natural gas production, mineral production, port activities, and coastal tourism and recreation) annually contributed $17 billion to the state's economy.

"California is a coastal-dependent state, yet the economic value of its marine resources is often underappreciated," Griggs said.

In California, as in other coastal states, human activities have led to significant modifications of the coastal zone's ecological systems, seriously impacting their ability to sustain themselves, Griggs noted.

For example, nearshore waters receive wastewater from domestic, industrial, and agricultural drainage. Contaminated sediments have increasingly begun to restrict dredging of major ports, through which 95 percent of the state's foreign trade must pass. Furthermore, many of the state's fisheries have collapsed, and species that were once economically valuable are now endangered.

"California's ocean issues must be addressed in ways that not only contribute to scientific understanding of natural processes and human-induced changes, but also are useful to the legislators, policy makers, and managers who must make decisions affecting the long-term health of the ocean," Griggs said.

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