SAINT JOHN (CNB) – A five-year, Canada-United States action plan to maintain and improve the environmental quality in the Gulf of Maine, Bay of Fundy and their watersheds was released today.

The 2012-2017 Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Action Plan presents the goals, outcomes and activities that the Gulf of Maine Council will pursue in its ongoing efforts to maintain and enhance the environmental quality in the Gulf of Maine, Bay of Fundy and their watersheds to allow for sustainable resource use.

The action plan was released by Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney and Donald Hudson, a member of the Gulf of Maine Council. Blaney is the 2011-12 council chair.

"Every five years, the Gulf of Maine Council renews its engagement and commitment to working together in addressing the gulf's most pressing issues that require a unified, regional response," said Blaney. "New Brunswick is proud to be a partner, and this action plan will allow the council to focus on the issues that are most in need of intervention to protect the gulf 's fragile ecosystems for future generations so that they, too, can understand and appreciate our natural environment."  

Among those issues considered a priority of the council during the next five years are climate change adaptation; water quality protection; and habitat restoration and conservation.

Through the action plan, the council will work toward three long-range goals:

●    restored and conserved habitats: Habitats in the ocean and along the coast, including the rivers that flow to the ocean, are healthy, productive and resilient. They support rich aquatic life, vibrant coastal communities and ocean economies;
●    environmental and human health: Environmental conditions support the health of people and the ecosystems of the gulf; and
●    sustainable communities: People who live and work in communities around the gulf have information they need to adapt to the changing environment.
 
The action plan contains a list of initiatives that the council intends to pursue. Some of them are:
    
●    providing habitat restoration grants and technical assistance that result in restored coastal ecosystems;
●    supporting the region-wide exchange of information on observed and predicted effects of climate change on the people living in the region and its coastal and marine habitats;
●    identifying and assessing new and emerging environmental issues in the gulf by way of the publication of the State of the Gulf Report series of theme papers;
●    providing municipal adaptation grants and technical assistance that result in more resilient coastal communities;
●    publishing the Gulf of Maine Times, an unbiased news source about research and management activities happening in the gulf and Bay of Fundy;
●    continuing to improve the council's long-standing Gulfwatch contaminants monitoring program and integrating it with other monitoring initiatives;
●    creating the Ecosystem Indicator Partnership Program, which provides an online ecosystem indicator reporting tool and ecosystem monitoring map; theme-oriented indicator fact sheets; training workshops; and information about the health of the ecosystem; and
●    advancing the bi-national acquisition and use of seafloor mapping products and services for resource and management decisions.
 
"The Gulf of Maine is one of the world's most productive marine ecosystems, and the economic prosperity and quality of life of millions of people are tied directly and indirectly to this fragile environment," said Hudson, who is also president emeritus of the Chewonki Foundation. "The council understands the environmental challenges that are specific to this region as well as the measures that must be taken to ensure its protection and its sustainability. This is the council's fifth action plan, and it will help us and our many partners to continue our collaborative work to deliver on priorities and actions that will benefit existing and future generations."  
    
The council was established in 1989 by the governments of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts to foster co-operative actions within the Gulf of Maine watershed, which includes the Bay of Fundy. It comprises federal, provincial and state agencies, non-government organizations and business interests, which exchange information, engage in long-term planning and facilitate on-the-ground initiatives and programs aimed at protecting and enhancing the gulf, its watersheds and associated ecosystems.  
    
Each year, one of the five states and provinces serves as the secretariat and co-ordinates the council's work. New Brunswick has this role in 2011-12.
    
The 2012-2017 Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Action Plan is on the Department of Environment website and the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment website.
    
LINKS:

●    Department of Environment: www.gnb.ca/environment
●    Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment: www.gulfofmaine.org