BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The future of the Gulf of Mexico is the focus of a conference in Biloxi this week. The group is called GOMA, which stands for Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Some 400 scientists, researchers and environmentalists are meeting at the IP Casino Resort, tackling the many challenges facing the gulf waters.
They come from the five Gulf States sharing a common purpose: Doing good things for the Gulf of Mexico.
"The lines of the state really don't show up in the Gulf of Mexico," said Patti Powell, with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "To really get to the problems and get to solutions, we really have to work together."
This week's conference will include exhibitors, panel discussions and small group assignments. One main goal will be working on a five-year plan for the gulf. Coastal resilience will certainly be a priority.
"You've also got habitat restoration, wildlife and fisheries issues. Lots of monitoring. We need to find out what's going on out there on a regular basis and monitor it over time to see if we're improving," said Executive Director Laura Bowie.
This group was formed back in 2004, just in time to deal with the impact of Hurricane Katrina, followed by the gulf oil spill just five years later.
"Forced our states to work together. Forced a lot of us into rooms like this to talk about challenges that the gulf had, through both manmade and natural disasters," said Mississippi DMR Director Jamie Miller.
"It's working together, but you know, some of it is just being together. Talking to each other, knowing what's going on in each state," said Powell.
The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is divided into teams, which address the various issues affecting the gulf. Ecology and economy are tightly intertwined.
"With a healthy ecology, we can have healthy economies. So much of our seafood, our transportation, our manufacturing, our industries are dependent on healthy natural resources, and that's how they're tied together," Bowie explained.
As mentioned, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance has been around since 2004. The regional group was created following an initiative by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who called on the Gulf States to work together.