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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together Executive Summary Mexico and the United States have a long history of interactions—economic, political, and social. These two countries, by virtue of geography and economic relationship, have many common interests and linked destinies. In addition, Mexico and the United States have adjacent coastal and oceanic areas in the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Oceanic currents, large-scale mixing in each region, and animal migrations link these ocean regions seamlessly. Unfortunately, national political boundaries and cultural differences form artificial barriers to cooperation in ocean sciences and the solution of problems related to living resources and environmental quality. In shared coastal areas, as well as in adjacent international waters, actions taken by one nation affect the other, and knowledge gained by researchers of one nation can help solve problems in the other. Examples of marine concerns affecting both the United States and Mexico include commercial and recreational fisheries management, protection of marine birds and mammals, water quality and quantity, oil and gas development, tourism and commercial development, biological diversity, and coastal zone management. Managing and protecting shared marine resources and solving shared marine environmental problems will require stronger binational cooperation in education, research, monitoring, modeling, and management. Despite this natural impetus for joint activities in oceanic and coastal areas, there has been relatively limited cooperation on oceanic issues between Mexico and the United States. The general lack of cooperative activities has resulted (in part) because only minor attention is focused on such cooperation by the governments of the two nations, possibly because of a lack of appreciation of the national advantages of binational efforts. Additionally, language barriers, differ-
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together ential development of scientific infrastructure and human resources, and disproportionate funding have hindered cooperation. To lower or remove some of the barriers that separate ocean scientists in Mexico and the United States and to promote binational ocean sciences, representatives of the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias (AMC, formerly the Academia de la Investigación Científica) and the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) met in 1994. At that meeting, participants discussed an interacademy project to articulate the benefits of increased binational ocean sciences, describe potential topics for joint research, identify barriers to cooperative research, and suggest ways to lower these barriers. Meeting participants discussed the need for greater cooperation between Mexican and U.S. ocean scientists and agreed to form an interacademy group to explore common research interests (see Appendix A for agreement). The NRC and AMC each formed a committee of scientists, funded and administered separately, which together served as the AMC-NRC Joint Working Group on Ocean Sciences (see Appendix B for biographies of working group members). This report offers examples of significant research that could be conducted binationally in the Pacific Ocean/Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean Sea. In the Pacific Ocean, there are important research questions related to the cause of regional variations in fish abundance, particularly the role of oceanic physical processes and their effects on top predators such as marine mammals and seabirds. There is evidence that the physical-biological regime of the California Current System varies between alternate hydrographic and biological conditions, evidenced, for example, by changes in the dominance of the mid-levels of the ecosystems by either sardines or anchovies, possibly in response to global climate variations. Also in relation to climate, both the California Borderland and the Gulf of California provide the opportunity to study past conditions through analysis of laminated sediments whose deposition is affected by climate. Although the Gulf of California is located entirely within the borders of Mexico, the United States has a large effect on this gulf because of reduction of the quantity and the quality of water entering the head of the gulf through the Colorado River, as well as the major impact of U.S. tourists on the region. In addition, the open Pacific coast and the Gulf of California are physically connected and share many physical, biological, and geological features. The Continental Borderland and Gulf of California have a shared tectonic development, and modern geological and geophysical investigation of these two regions would help solve problems of broad scientific significance. A number of research topics specific to the Gulf of California are both scientifically interesting and important to society, for example, the transport of materials across the Gulf of California continental shelf, the tectonics and geology of the gulf, and the unusual sediment-covered hydrothermal vents that exist in this region. The United States and Mexico border the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the semi-enclosed nature of this basin, activities of the two nations can have signifi-
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together cant and long-lasting effects on the marine environment not only within the basin, but also downstream along the U.S. East Coast and possibly upstream on Caribbean coasts because of recirculation. The Loop Current-Florida Current System links the Yucatáin Peninsula with South Florida. The Gulf of Mexico-Caribbean Sea region is a logical location for a regional ocean observing system, coordinated communication networks for research and public education, and large-scale binational research programs. Research is needed to understand the connections between the physical processes in this ocean area (circulation, Loop Current and ring dynamics, and water mass exchange) and fisheries, continental weather, and natural hazards. Scientific activities related to oil and gas exploration and development, the impacts of oil and other pollutants on marine organisms and humans, and the ecology of hydrocarbon and saline seeps are also important. Finally, habitat destruction and changes in biological diversity that result from human activities are important societal issues throughout the region. Management and mitigation of such human impacts can best be accomplished through policy based on accurate and complete scientific information, appropriate models, and correct application of available information. Our combined ocean areas are rich in marine life, especially invertebrate species. Studies worldwide have demonstrated that marine invertebrates produce a wide range of biochemicals that may be useful to humans. The field of marine natural products chemistry has been developed to search for such useful compounds, understand their natural functions, and predict their commercial potential. There is substantial potential for collaboration between the United States and Mexico in exploring for and developing marine natural products. Despite the great scientific promise in areas described above, a number of actions must be taken to make collaborative research more effective, to improve ocean science capabilities, and to form strong partnerships between Mexico and the United States. Most importantly, strengthening the infrastructure of ocean science in Mexico would improve the ability of Mexican scientists to cooperate with scientists from other nations. The primary means of achieving this goal are (1) joint research and (2) personnel exchanges for education and training. Exchanges may include students, faculty members, technicians, and government officials; regular academy-to-academy consultations related to ocean science issues; increased dissemination and sharing of information; and scientific symposia focused on binational ocean sciences. At present, the lack of an institutional focus for ocean sciences in Mexico hinders cooperation between the nations. 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 agency. 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. Similarly, the AMC (or its operating arm, the National Foundation for Research
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together [Fundación Nacional de Investigación]) should consider the value of creating a Mexican counterpart to the Ocean Studies Board to facilitate regular interacademy communication on marine issues of binational interest and to deal with Mexican ocean science needs. In addition to strengthening the human ''infrastructure,'' the physical infrastructure of science should be shared to mutual advantage between Mexico and the United States in the short term and the Mexican infrastructure should be built up in the longer term to achieve self-sustaining capabilities in the ocean sciences. Such capabilities are important both to enable the cooperation of Mexican ocean scientists with their colleagues from the United States and other nations and to allow Mexican scientists to respond to their nation's ocean-related challenges and opportunities more effectively. To develop better understanding of ocean processes and how human activities can affect these processes, agencies that fund basic and mission-oriented research in both nations should sustain an appropriate level of support for development of new techniques to observe the ocean. Well-coordinated sharing of major facilities would enhance the effectiveness and utilization of such instruments and facilities after they are developed. Examples include better use of the "idle time" of expensive instruments or ships and provision or loan of instrumentation from one country for use in field and laboratory research in the other. Agencies in both nations should seek to sustain an appropriate balance of expenditures related to ship construction, maintenance, and operations. Building ships without providing additional funding for maintenance and for research using the ships results in underutilized and wasted ship resources. In the Mexican case, balanced funding for research and for support of existing ships should be pursued. Including Mexican participants in organizational, planning, and training activities of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System could be mutually beneficial to both nations by making ship operations more compatible and transferring the extensive experience of U.S. ship operators and technicians to their Mexican counterparts. Mexican and U.S. agencies and scientists should cooperate in establishing coordinated observing systems in shared and adjacent waters that will enhance and sustain regionally important ocean monitoring efforts and also serve as integral parts of a global system. Pursuing binational research, increasing cooperation, and building infrastructure will depend on the investment of adequate resources. The significant scientific opportunities and societal needs related to binational ocean research described herein indicate that important benefits could result if the two federal governments devote greater resources to binational ocean science and proceed to initiate planning of joint ocean science activities. Greater cooperation would result if funding were provided by the U.S. and Mexican governments for full participation in research by U.S. and Mexican scientists in contiguous waters of the two nations. Funding for binational marine science activities is extremely limited at present. It is appropriate for the government agencies, foundations, and
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together industrial sectors of both nations to devote resources to such activities, using existing mechanisms such as the U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Science, designating specific funds to be distributed through existing channels, or creating new vehicles to fund joint activities. It is crucial that efforts be made to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings and unmet expectations of collaborative research by specifying (in advance) agreement about duties, responsibilities, joint or separate authorship of publications, credit, patent rights, and timetables of planned research. It also is important to form an ethical and legal framework for joint science and balanced collaborations, depending on ideals of the Law of the Sea treaty and other relevant international law and standards of ethical scientific conduct. Most of the recommendations contained in this report require implementation by the federal agencies of the United States and Mexico. Some of the recommendations are also applicable, however, to private foundations, state agencies, academic and research institutions, individual ocean scientists, scientific societies, and/or the national academies of the two nations. The information contained in this report can serve as the foundation and stimulus for a new era of cooperation between ocean scientists of the United States and Mexico and thus can result in significant scientific advances, more effective and careful use of marine natural resources, and improved protection of the marine environment in both nations.
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