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United Nations group visits Stony Brook Southampton Marine Station

On Saturday July 9th, 2016, the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science was honored to welcome a group of United Nations ambassadors, dignitaries, and their families to the Stony Brook Southampton Marine Station for a tour of the facility and an overview of the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program (ShiRP). Ten countries, including Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Fiji, Israel, Italy, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Poland, and Vanuatu were represented.

These nations are part of the “10 x 20 Initiative”, which is aimed toward achieving the protection of 10% of the world’s oceans by the year 2020. This target is included in the Sustainable Development Goals—which were adopted by member states of the United Nations in September 2015. IOCS’s Executive Director, Dr. Ellen Pikitch, and Assistant Director for Policy and Outreach, Christine Santora, are involved in the 10 x 20 Initiative through their work with the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance (OSA).

The diplomats were welcomed by Dr. Matt Whelan, representing Stony Brook University’s Office of the President, and Dr. Larry Swanson, Dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Guests were given a tour of Stony Brook’s state-of-the art research laboratory by director Christopher Paparo and ShiRP PhD Student Andrew Griffith, who conversed with the group about current experiments, shellfish spawning, and how the scientific work done in the lab directly informs bay restoration. The diplomats also heard an overview ShiRP’s restoration goals and activities from Christine Santora, ShiRP’s program manager, and Dr. Konstantine Rountos, a Stony Brook University research scientist who has led ShiRP’s trawl survey and other fishery-related activities since the program’s inception.

A highlight of the study tour was a visit to the hard clam spawner sanctuaries in Shinnecock Bay -- areas where large amounts of adult hard clams have been placed in close proximity to one another to maximize population growth and reproduction. Spawner sanctuaries, a type of marine protected area (or MPA), are a conservation tool that can improve the water quality and shellfish populations of Shinnecock Bay. During the outing on the R/V Peconic, the success of the sanctuaries became apparent when samples taken just outside the protected area revealed small hard clams – offspring of the adult clams that had been placed in the hard clam sanctuaries. Diplomats also participated in deploying sampling gear, which revealed some of the fish and invertebrates resident in Shinnecock Bay, and learned how various species and habitats contribute to the bay’s ecological health and vibrancy. A summer flounder was tagged with an acoustic transmitter that allows ShiRP researchers to monitor migration patterns of this flagship fish species.

President-Elect of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji, reminded all that “We are One Ocean,” noting that the sediment in Shinnecock Bay looks, smells and feels just the same as the bay bottom he encountered as a child in Fiji. He praised the work of Stony Brook University's restoration program, citing it as a model for protecting marine areas, as is needed to safeguard our oceans and coastal areas for generations to come.

In March 2016, diplomats involved in the 10 x 20 Initiative gathered in Rome, along with scientists led by Dr. Pikitch, to create the Rome Call to Action -- a statement calling for more and robust use of MPAs. The 10 x 20 Initiative is chaired by Italy, with Vice-Chairs from The Bahamas, Palau, Poland, Kenya and the OSA.

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