WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today convened the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for a hearing titled, “Our Blue Economy: Successes and Opportunities.” The hearing examined stakeholder perspectives on marine economic development and the need for federal investments in ocean technologies and fisheries.
Excerpt from Chairman Wicker’s opening statement, as delivered, below:
In the last Congress, my colleagues and I worked to grow the Blue Economy by leading the Modern Fish Act and the Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology Act, or CENOTE, both of which were enacted into law and signed by the President. Today, we will ask all of our witnesses to address what the federal government can do to ensure our federal waters work for all sectors that use them.
Over the years, I have heard complaints from recreational fishermen about how they had been an afterthought for federal fisheries managers. Our nation’s fisheries law, the Magnuson Stevens Act, was established to manage commercial fisheries.
It is no surprise, then, that a management system designed for commercial activity did not work for recreational fishermen who want to spend more time on the water, not catch their quota as quickly as possible.
The Modern Fish Act requires the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to be more responsive to the needs of our recreational fisheries. It allows for the use of additional management tools like extraction rates, fishing mortality rates, and harvest control rules. We will certainly be providing oversight to the administration as they develop the ways to implement the Modern Fish Act.
I hope Mr. Deal will address the Modern Fish Act and other issues important to recreational fishermen in his testimony and responses to questions.
In addition, our oceans are woefully under observed — that is why I have advocated for the strategic use of Unmanned Maritime Systems. These systems are a cost-effective way to bring about a dramatic increase in the number of ocean observations NOAA obtains.
Unmanned maritime systems serve a valuable role when the mission is too dangerous, dull, or dirty for human crews. For example, knowing the water temperature below the surface is critical for predicting how quickly a hurricane will intensify — getting these measurements is a job for unmanned systems.
The CENOTE Act encourages NOAA to think strategically and comprehensively about incorporating unmanned maritime systems. I hope Governor Bryant and our other witnesses will address how we can harness marine technology, particularly when it comes to oceans observations and data collection.
Observations are also critically important for our nation’s increasingly busy ports, where aging infrastructure and frequent changes in wind, tide level, and current make navigation a tricky business. I would like to hear from our witnesses about what the federal government can do to provide ports with real-time information on weather and tides and to support the efficient movement of freight.
We had some big successes last Congress, and I can assure you this is a topic that is vitally interesting to this Chairman and this Ranking Member, and we think there is more to do. I look forward to working with Senator Cantwell and the rest of the members of this Committee as we continue to develop legislation to advance the Blue Economy in the 116th Congress.