Readers of this publication are well versed in recent accomplishments of the Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, but what has Sea Grant recently accomplished on a national scale?
The 50-year anniversary of the National Sea Grant College Program in 2016 has occasioned a new video highlighting recent achievements of the country’s 33 Sea Grant programs. It’s only seven minutes long, so it paints with a broad brush.
“Across the country, Sea Grant has done so much in 50 years. In seven minutes, we could only examine a few of the major initiatives of a very complex, highly productive program,” said John Karl, Wisconsin Sea Grant videographer and producer of the video.
Even so, the list remains impressive — ensuring a safe and sustainable seafood supply; fostering a successful aquaculture industry; helping coastal communities plan for and respond to hurricanes, flooding and oil spills; protecting the public from harmful algal blooms; spurring offshore wind farms; and protecting and restoring aquatic habitat.
And there’s even more — promoting environmental literacy for all ages, developing our workforce, and providing fellowships and financial support to thousands of students and recent graduates.
It all began in 1963, when South African native Athelstan Spilhaus proposed the establishment of Sea Grant colleges at a meeting of the American Fisheries Society in 1963 as a parallel to the successful land-grant colleges, which he claimed was “one of the best investments this nation ever made. The same kind of imagination and foresight should be applied to the exploration of the sea.”
Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell championed the idea, and it quickly gained traction in Congress. Three short years later, the Sea Grant Colleges and Program Act was passed. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said Sea Grant is “always there,” unlike individual university projects or state-funded work, which may come and go. He said Sea Grant is essential to solving many of the issues facing our coasts.
A national advisory committee contributed to the video. It included staff from the Sea Grant programs of Mississippi-Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Hawaii, Maryland, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Darcy Wilkins, temporarily based at Louisiana Sea Grant, is an assistant producer, and Stephen Wittman, former Wisconsin Sea Grant assistant director for communications, is the scriptwriter.