Advancing an Ecosystem Approach in the Gulf of Maine

State-of-the-Environment Reporting for the Gulf of Maine

Jay Walmsley


Abstract.—The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, established in 1989 as a regional entity to manage environmental quality in the Gulf of Maine, recently recognized the importance of state-of-the-environment reporting as a management tool. Although participating members are individually taking steps to catalogue the collective understanding of the Gulf of Maine, until recently there has been no gulf-wide synthesis of pressures on the environment, biophysical and socioeconomic status and trends, and responses to identified issues. After a 9-month process to develop a scope for the project, in December 2009, the council approved the compilation of the “State of the Gulf of Maine Report,” to be launched in June 2010. The main objective of the “State of the Gulf of Maine Report” will be to provide information on the issues affecting the gulf in a form that is easily accessible and readable without compromising scientific validity. The reporting framework to be used will be the driving forces-pressure-state-impacts-response framework. This framework lends itself most easily to reporting on an issue-by-issue basis, so that the pressures, state, impacts, and responses are described for each issue in turn. The “State of the Gulf of Maine Report” will be a modular document that comprises an upfront section or “context document” that provides the background and context to the Gulf of Maine and a series of issue or theme papers that focus on priority areas of the council. It is also envisaged that a wiki site would be useful for informal reporting by interested parties. The main challenges to developing a state-of-the-environment reporting system for the Gulf of Maine are meeting target audience’s expectations, providing the correct level of detail, providing adequate facts in an understandable manner, processing and management of information, development and use of indicators, and funding and human resource capacity.