WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee hearing on The Future of Ocean Governance: Building Our National Ocean Policy.
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John D. Rockefeller, IVSenatorOur oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes provide our nation with unmatched wealth. Their beauty inspires us. They provide the air we breathe and the water we drink. They are home to magnificent animals – whales, dolphins, fish, and corals – that never cease to amaze us.This Congress, Senator Cantwell and I have made a point to talk about the enormous wealth and economic support that our oceans and Great Lakes provide coastal communities, and the United States, as a whole.Today’s hearing will highlight similar work the Administration is undertaking on this same front.In June, the President charged the Council on Environmental Quality to create an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to develop recommendations for a national policy for our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes, and he asked them to build a framework for coastal and marine spatial planning.The President set out an ambitious plan for the federal government with an ambitious timetable requiring the Task Force to report back in 180 days on its recommendations.It is time. Forty years ago, the Stratton Commission defined the structure and substance of a national ocean policy. Yet today, ocean management remains fragmented with an array of laws, regulations, and practices that confound efforts to protect, manage, and restore our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes for future generations.We have a responsibility to get this right and I look forward to working with the Administration as it finalizes its recommendations for a national policy for the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes and develops a framework for coastal and marine spatial planning.The Commerce Committee has a longstanding history working on comprehensive ocean planning and has developed legislation that balances conservation and human uses, from habitat protection and national marine sanctuaries to commercial fishing, offshore thermal energy conversion, and maritime shipping lanes. These issues touch our lives everyday and will affect our communities for years to come.The Committee is charged with the comprehensive study and review of all matters relating to science and technology, oceans policy, and transportation, and has exercised this interest through its oversight of: NOAA, the nation’s premier ocean science and resource agency; the United States Coast Guard, charged with safeguarding our maritime safety, security, and environment; and, other federal agencies whose activities fall within our jurisdiction. The Committee works to make sure policy decisions are built on and supported by strong science and technology.I want to commend the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force for its hard work. This is a challenging issue. As the Task Force prepares its final recommendations for the President, I would ask that it consider the following issues:(1) Give NOAA a central and strong leadership role in any efforts to improve the national stewardship of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes, and acknowledge the agency’s critical role in the final report and framework;(2) Show us the money. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy provided over 200 recommendations to Congress to improve ocean and coastal management. The Commission estimated that the new funding necessary for implementing the recommendations would be $1.3 billion in the first year and up to $3.87 billion in ongoing annual costs for NOAA and other federal agencies. Senator Cantwell, Senator Snowe, and I have called for $8 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget. We must recognize that, in order to improve and manage our ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources effectively, we need to fund these efforts. It is a wise investment in our nation’s environmental and economic future.(3) Evaluate existing legislative authorities and determine what more must be done to improve stewardship, management, and conservation, while balancing multiple uses in the marine environment. I hope that the Administration will work with Congress as it implements the recommendations.This Committee recognizes that healthy oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes mean a healthy future. They mean quality jobs, strong industries, and thriving communities. They are a precious and beautiful natural resource, and we have a responsibility to protect them.
Maria CantwellSenatorGood Morning. I’d like to thank my colleague Senator Snowe and all of our witnesses for participating in today’s hearing.Our oceans are responsible for so many things in our daily lives: from the air that we breathe to the food that we eat.As this subcommittee has heard in previous hearings, the ocean and coastal economies of the U.S. provide over 50 million jobs for Americans and contribute nearly 60 percent of our GDP.Our economy depends on a healthy ocean environment, but most people don’t realize that our oceans are in crisis and we must take action now. This is it, this is the time.Today’s hearing is about building a national policy to sustain our oceans,coasts, and Great Lakes for the future.We will have the opportunity to hear from Chair Sutley, Administrator Lubchenco, Admiral Allen, and Deputy Secretary Davis about the development of the proposed National Ocean Policy and framework for marine spatial planning and how it will impact Federal stewardship.Our second panel of witnesses will present their perspectives on how to improve stewardship, management, and the use of oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.I hope that by hearing from these panelists, this subcommittee will better understand the magnitude of the problems facing the ocean environment and the best management practices we should be using to confront those problems.One example of the troubles facing our oceans has emerged in recent weeks in Washington State. Since Labor Day, a deadly toxic algae bloom has killed over 8,000 seabirds – the largest seabird kill ever on a Washington coastline.Our oceans also face major threats from climate change and ocean acidification: Since the start of the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago, humans have released more than 1.5 trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. One-third of those emissions – more than half a trillion tons – have been absorbed by the oceans.We now know that this is actually changing the very chemistry of the ocean.As seawater becomes more acidic, it begins to withhold the basic chemical building blocks needed by many marine organisms. Acidification is threatening the existence of the world’s coral reefs, and starting to dissolve the shells of the organisms that make up the base of the ocean’s food chain.
When it comes to ocean acidification, we risk not just damaging the ocean’s ecosystem – we are threatening its very foundation.Unfortunately, oceans are too often an afterthought in our discussions about climate change. As the climate debate moves forward, it is a major priority of mine to make sure the oceans are a major part of that discussion.Beyond climate change, though, our oceans face additional major threats:• Toxic substances and new diseases are showing up in marine mammals;
• Ocean dead zones plague vast parts of the marine environment;
• Toxic algae blooms poison coastal wildlife and threaten shellfish and fishing industries;
• Oil spills remain an ever-present threat; and
• More and more ocean species are becoming endangered, like the iconic Southern Resident Orcas of the Puget Sound.Over forty years ago, Senator Magnuson championed legislation that established the Stratton Commission. The Commission had a substantial impact on marine science and policy in the United States, including the creation of NOAA.Today, we once again have a call to action. It is time for move forward with a national ocean policy.But words on paper are meaningless unless they are put into action and change how the Federal government does business.It is NOAA’s mission to conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our Nation’s economic, social, and environmental needs.The Administration should acknowledge and strengthen NOAA’s role, and literally, give them a seat at the table of the National Ocean Council.One of many Ocean Commission recommendations left unfinished is enacting an organic act for NOAA. I hope that the Administration will work with me on this effort as well as other ways to improve stewardship of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.Senator Snowe and I have called on this Administration to increase funding for ocean conservation, management, and science. We cannot expect success in implementing a national ocean policy or marine spatial planning if we do not provide Tribes, States, scientists, and managers with the resources they need.The success of a national policy will depend on broad support.My hope is that this hearing will help us better understand how we, collectively, can move forward and determine what actions needs to be taken to sustain our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Nancy SutleyChairCouncil on Environmental Quality
The Honorable Jane LubchencoAdministratorNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Honorable Thad AllenCommandantU.S. Coast Guard
The Honorable Laura DavisAssociate Deputy SecretaryU.S. Department of the Interior
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Billy Frank Jr.ChairmanNorthwest Indian Fisheries Commission
Dr. Dennis Takashi-KelsoExecutive Vice PresidentThe Ocean Conservancy
Mr. Matthew PaxtonGovernment Relations CounselCoastal Conservation Association
Ms. Carolyn ElefantLegislative and Regulatory CounselOcean Renewable Energy Coalition