WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, yesterday introduced the National Ocean Exploration Act. The bill would authorize the National Ocean Mapping, Exploration, and Characterization Council, update national priorities for ocean mapping, exploration, and characterization, and direct the Council to coordinate and facilitate activities across federal and non-federal entities to advance those priorities.
“We need to improve the way we map, explore, and characterize the deep seas,” said Wicker. “This bill would serve as a catalyst for new underwater discoveries. It would make important information available through multi-sector partnerships and ensure the ocean remains a valuable source of American prosperity.”
“This bill will elevate ocean science at NOAA and across federal agencies, it will renew a focus on mapping and ocean research, and it will allow for innovative partnerships and cooperative agreements to expand our ocean exploration efforts,” said Cantwell. “NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Program supports Pacific Northwest research from mapping the Arctic to facilitate shipping, tourism and commerce, to exploring the biological and cultural importance of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.”
“We still have more to learn from Papahanaumokuakea,” said Schatz. “Strengthening NOAA’s ocean exploration program will increase both the tempo of discovery, and the capacity to manage this Marine National Monument and World Heritage Site.”
The National Ocean Exploration Act would:
- Authorize and improve the National Ocean Mapping, Exploration, and Characterization Council;
- Reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s existing Ocean Exploration, Ocean and Coastal Mapping, and Hydrographic Services programs from fiscal years 2021 to 2030;
- Establish a system to enhance the public accessibility of ocean-related National Environmental Policy Act documents and the geo-referenced data included in them.
Click here to read the bill.