Public Release:  Citizens, scientists and policymakers debate ways to restore ocean health at AAAS Town Hall Meeting

Majority at event favor education, government regulation to halt further ocean damage

American Association for the Advancement of Science

A Webcast of the event is archived at http://science.discovery.com/convergence/aaaswebcast/aaaswebcast.html

A copy of the AAAS Survey Report on Marine Issues is available here.

SEATTLE, WA, Feb. 15 - Marine scientists, Seattle citizens and politicians debated the best ways to restore the ocean's health at a town hall meeting sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology for several hours today.

"I'm delighted that we brought hundreds of citizens together with scientists and policymakers to discuss a critical subject like saving our oceans," said Alan I. Leshner, Chief Executive Officer of AAAS and Executive Publisher of Science. "We hope the dialogue that began today continues, and sparks creative solutions to the ocean's problems."

Participants considered three main options for how Seattle's citizens could deal with the problems facing the Puget Sound and the world's oceans:

    1. Change how residents and businesses use Puget Sound through education and regulation, since the waterways can only absorb so much pollution and over-fishing before irreparable damage is done;

    2. Invest in technologies and infrastructure to solve the problems facing the waterways without excessively restricting individuals and businesses;

    3. Accept some environmental stress so that Seattle can remain a true port city.

A majority of the more than 200 participants at the town hall favored option # 1, but many also believed that a combination of options # 1 and 2 would yield the best results over the long term. A significant minority believed that a combination of all three options was the best approach.

Participants also had the following recommendations for future action:

    1. Find and communicate positive stories to policymakers and the public about successful community efforts to improve ocean quality;
    2. Increase funding and support for all forms of public transportation to reduce ocean pollution;
    3. Enlist sports fishermen to help promote and monitor conservation and reclamation efforts;
    4. Encourage people to become involved in local efforts to preserve the marine environment;
    5. Discourage harm to the Puget Sound through the use of economic incentives/disincentives;
    6. Regulate commercial fishing more aggressively;
    7. Inspire people with the majesty of the oceans to motivate them to protect this resource.
    8. Conduct research on what will motivate people to change their behavior to protect the oceans.

The town hall meeting was the debut initiative of AAAS's Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology. The new Center was founded to forge a better understanding between scientists and the general public on the increasingly complex scientific issues that affect our daily lives; and to enhance the public's input into scientific research agendas by creating opportunities for dialogue among policymakers, the public and the scientific community.

The town hall meeting was moderated by Ira Flatow of National Public Radio's "Science Friday," and hosted by Leshner; with speakers Jane Lubchenco, chair of marine biology at Oregon State University; John R. Delaney, professor of oceanography at the University of Washington; and Usha Varanasi, director, Northwest Fisheries Science Center. AAAS joined with the Seattle Aquarium; the Pacific Science Center, Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team; Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea (COMPASS); Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO); and SeaChange to hold this event. The meeting was facilitated by Public Agenda, a non-partisan citizen engagement organization.

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and reports some 265 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

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