WASHINGTON -- Joint research activities between scientists in the United States and Mexico in shared oceanic and coastal areas have been hindered by language and cultural differences, national political boundaries, and a disparity in funding and other resources, according to a new report from a joint committee of the National Research Council and the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias.
Most significantly, the committee found, support for ocean research in Mexico is insufficient to sustain scientists already working in the field and is inadequate for a binational response to ocean-related environmental problems. The report offers examples of significant research that could be conducted binationally in the Pacific Ocean, the Gulfs of California and Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea, if greater support could be obtained. The committee recommended that the Mexican infrastructure be strengthened through more focused attention to ocean science activities, joint research, and personnel exchanges for education and training. Problems to be tackled range from coastal zone management and biological diversity to fisheries management and water quality and quantity issues.
"At present, the lack of an institutional focus for ocean sciences in Mexico hinders cooperation between the nations," the report says. "The Mexican federal government should examine the merits of creating an agency responsible for marine affairs and ocean information services, including ocean sciences and technology, either as a new agency or placed within an existing one." Such an entity would be able to cooperate with U.S. agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and could coordinate the application of ocean science to environmental and societal needs in Mexico.
The ocean areas separated by the U.S.-Mexico border are unified natural systems that are linked by ocean currents, large-scale mixing in each region, and animal migrations. In the shared coastal areas -- as well as in the adjacent international waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean, and Caribbean Sea -- actions taken by one nation affect the other, the committee said.
For example, because the Gulf of Mexico is a semi-enclosed basin, its currents can circulate pollutants and living organisms throughout the entire region. Additionally, the open Pacific coast and the Gulf of California are physically connected and share many biological and geological features.
The committee made several recommendations that could help foster greater cooperation between the two nations in solving problems related to their shared and adjacent bodies of water. Among these recommendations:
The committee also recommended establishing additional communications links, including Web sites, teleconferencing facilities, and computer databases, to improve the flow of information between U.S. and Mexican scientists and government officials.
The study was funded in the United States by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and National Research Council, and in Mexico by the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias. The National Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science advice under a congressional charter.
Return to the U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water News Homepage