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Keeping Florida's coastlines and oceans a key part of the economy is threatened by climate change

View of downtown Tampa from Tampa Bay
Steve Newborn
View of downtown Tampa from south of Harbour Island.

The Florida Ocean Alliance submitted a plan to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the legislature to help strengthen resilience and protection of the state's coastlines.

Florida's coastal counties generate about two-thirds of the state's economy. But keeping the parts of that economy that are dependent on the ocean and bays stable is becoming a challenge.

It's called the "Blue Economy." But rising seas and warming oceans are threatening parts of that economic web. That was the takeaway from a conference held last week at Tampa's port by the Florida Ocean Alliance.

The Alliance serves as a clearinghouse for information on ocean and coastal issues facing the state. The group's president, Glenn Wiltshire - deputy director of Port Everglades - said last year, they submitted a list of priorities to the governor and Legislature to strengthen coastal resilience.

"Our recommendations focused on coastal resilience and improving water and habitat quality, coastal community hazard preparedness, natural resource protection - the foundation of Florida's blue economy - and implementation of a strategic plan for Florida's oceans and coasts.," he said.

Wiltshire says the group will continue working with lawmakers to fund projects that strengthen resilience along the state's coastlines.

"It's to bring attention to our priorities," he said. "Because that's what it's really about - to bring attention to the oceans and critical importance of the oceans and the blue economy to our state."

Charles Colgan is director of research at the Center for the Blue Economy, a research center managed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Cal.

"In the Tampa Bay region, there's a combination of 4,000 employment establishments, 100,000 employees, $2.49 billion in wages and $5.73 billion in GDP, (gross domestic product)," he said.

People speaking at conference
Steve Newborn
Speakers at the Florida Ocean Alliance conference at Tampa's cruise port.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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