BAR HARBOR — The Bar Harbor Whale Watch hosted a group of officials from the University of Maine, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Weather Service and others Aug. 24 for a tour by sea of the regional buoy and ocean observation equipment system – the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS.) The group also visited the Cooke Aquaculture salmon farm.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin was on board to learn about the IOOS program. Harbor pilots Skip Strong and David Gelinas and Bass Harbor lobsterman Jim Dow also joined the group.
The Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) is the regional component to the national IOOS. The system provides weather and ocean data to fishermen, cargo ships, the U.S. Coast Guard and all other entities that can use that information.
The data is essential to fisheries scientists, since tracking ocean temperature, currents and other basic data is usually beyond the scope of their research grants.
The tour comes in light of a $795,000 grant that was awarded to the University of Maine from the federal government for a buoy and high-frequency radar operation to add to their ocean monitoring and studying programs. This year, the university has received a total of $1,173,196 through four different federal grants for their oceanic programs.
Poliquin and other members of Maine’s congressional delegation have been vocally opposed to cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that were proposed in the Trump administration’s budget for next year, including elimination of the Sea Grant program.
“We all had an opportunity to make the case as to how critically important NERACOOS is to ecotourism, safe maritime navigation, fishing and environmental monitoring,” said Zack Klyver, lead guide for Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.
“Being out on the water and hearing from the community is the best way to tell the story about the diverse need for ocean information,” said Ru Morrison, executive director of NERACOOS. “The information we help to provide is critical to keeping people safe and to keeping the maritime economy moving forward throughout the region.”
“As one of the premier sea grant institutions in the country, the University of Maine is a leader on oceanic research and study programs, and their work contributes to the success of Maine’s vast marine economy and thousands of jobs, parts of which I was thrilled to see firsthand,” Poliquin said in a statement. “I’m extremely excited that this important grant support will go toward their continued work in this field and the positive impact it has for our lobstermen, aquaculture industry, tourism and other jobs in Maine.”