The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on National Ocean Policy Study has announced a hearing on the state of the oceans. Subcommittee Chairman John Sununu will preside.
John E. SununuSenatorOpening Statement of Senator Sununu“Welcome to this hearing of the National Ocean Policy Study. This hearing on the ‘State of the Oceans 2006’ will serve as an opportunity to review the progress we have made in terms of ocean policy reform over the past few years, and give us a chance to look forward to the immediate and long-term priorities we should set for further legislation.“I will note with regret the absence of Admiral James Watkins, the Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, who we had hoped could be with us today. We wish him a complete and speedy recovery.“This Subcommittee has tackled a series of complex issues, including protection of coral reefs, prevention of the introduction of aquatic invasive species, preservation of sensitive coastal lands, and the promise of aquaculture in the open ocean. We have not yet addressed the way in which we govern our ocean resources, or the current state of our nation’s lead ocean agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).“Today, we will hear words such as ‘ecosystem,’ and ‘coordination.’ It is my hope that will go beyond the jargon, and explore how NOAA can best achieve the many important missions we expect of it.“I want to thank Senator Boxer for her continued work as Ranking Member of this Subcommittee. We’ve worked very well in a bipartisan manner on all of the issues I’ve just mentioned. Much of the legislation approved by the Commerce Committee this year deals with ocean policy, and we’ll keep pushing to get these valuable ideas considered, debated, and passed into law.”
Daniel K. InouyeSenatorMr. Chairman, thank you for calling attention to this issue. As you know, the health of our oceans is particularly important to me. I am pleased that the Committee will take a close look at our progress to date, as well as actions we still must take, to ensure that future generations have access to healthy and productive oceans.I am proud of the Committee’s accomplishments toward implementing the recommendations of the Ocean Commission reports. In the first session of the 109th Congress, the Senate approved 6 bills on key Ocean Commission recommendations, and the Committee has approved another 3 that are awaiting Senate consideration.Four Senate bills currently awaiting action in the House are particularly important to me, and we would like to see the House take these up soon:
I urge House leaders to move these bills forward as they play a vital role in our nation’s ability to respond to and reduce threats to our safety and the safety of our resources.I would like to comment specifically on the international provisions of S. 2012, which provide a complement to the impressive conservation and management program we have established under the Magnuson-Stevens Act here at home. These provisions would strengthen U.S. leadership in international conservation, and put teeth into our efforts to end illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing as well as the bycatch of protected living marine resources on the high seas.This problem is particularly important in the Western Pacific, where increasing pressure from other high seas fishing nations has resulted in our bigeye tuna stocks being overfished, as well as in uncontrolled bycatch of endangered sea turtles. Without addressing this problem internationally, both our tuna stocks and our sea turtles will continue to decline, which harms both our fishermen and our ecosystems.I look forward to enactment of these essential provisions this Congress, as well as Senate action on our other priorities, including S. 363, the Ballast Water Management Act of 2005.We share the Commission’s dedication to keeping national attention on oceans. I was dismayed that oceans were entirely ignored in the President's new science initiative. However, I am pleased that the Committee’s technology bill included provisions to promote ocean science and education.I also look forward to discussing with Chairman Stevens how we may move forward on legislation that strengthens NOAA and its missions, as we did in the 108th Congress.I am disappointed that the President continues to request funding well below the levels that are required to implement key Ocean Commission recommendations. The President’s FY 2007 budget request is $227 million, or 6%, below the FY 2006 appropriated level of $3.91 billion, which is still half of the level recommended by the Ocean Commission and only one quarter of the amount devoted to space exploration.The Administration has even failed to request funds for its “Ocean Action Plan” priorities, including areas that the Commerce Committee has acted on, such as Oceans and Human Health, Marine Debris, and Ocean Observing Systems. I call on this Administration to fully fund these important programs and make protecting and managing our ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources a true priority.I am proud of the progress this Committee has made, starting with the legislation in 2000 that created the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. Yet without like-minded partners, we cannot fully succeed. We must continue to remind everyone that oceans sustain the life of all Americans, wherever they live. We will not give up our stalwart effort to make oceans a priority, and we hope others will join us this year.
- S. 50, the Tsunami Preparedness Act;
- S.362, the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act;
- S. 2012, the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act; and
- S. 1390, the Coral Reef Conservation Amendments Act of 2005
Frank R. LautenbergSenatorMr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on the state of our Oceans today.As a son of New Jersey, I have always loved the ocean. We New Jerseyans are proud of our Shore. It is a place where we go for recreation, for natural beauty, for fishing and seafood – or just to relax. Tourism is a major industry in New Jersey – supporting almost 400 thousand jobs - and the Jersey Shore is the top attraction for visitors to our state. The same is true for all other members who represent coastal states. We all love our beaches – and the coastal environment is critical to each of our state economies.Unfortunately, while most people love the ocean, they don’t always understand the serious threats our oceans face. These threats include pollution, over fishing, ongoing threats to marine mammals, and the impacts of global warming. There is mounting evidence that global warming is increasing the acidity of the oceans, which could have devastating effects on small organisms at the bottom of the food chain.I strongly support efforts to increase the appreciation of our oceans and the challenges that confront them. I have introduced a plan to expand ocean education programs in our nation, spearheaded by NOAA. I would appreciate hearing what our witnesses think about the need for more education about our oceans.The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission each did excellent work to identify these challenges. I am pleased that some of their members remain engaged in the public dialogue about our nation’s oceans policy through the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative.There are many issues to discuss today, and we probably won’t get to them all. But one issue that must be discussed is funding. A budget is a blueprint of priorities – and I am concerned about the Administration’s commitment to protect and restore the oceans. Its proposed FY 07 budget cuts several important NOAA programs. For example, NOAA’s proposed budget includes elimination of funding for ongoing ocean and coastal research, including the LEO-15 project at Rutgers University in New Jersey, which conducts important underwater research and the Oceans and Human Health Program.Our oceans are facing enough man-made difficulties. Let’s not compound the problem by refusing to allocate the resources we need to meet these challenges. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Hon. Leon PanettaCo-ChairmanJoint Ocean Commission Initiative
Mr. Paul KellyCommissionerU.S Commission on Ocean Policy
Mr. Mike ChrismanSecretaryCalifornia Resources Agency
Mr. Michael OrbachDirectorDuke University Marine Laboratory