Mr. President, I am proud to cosponsor this resolution with Senators SNOWE, HOLLINGS, and MCCAIN. In 1998 we recognized the International Year of the Oceans, and it is time we underscore the importance of oceans in our daily lives through an annual celebration of National Oceans Week. The global oceans need our attention now more than ever. Today, we are faced with the challenge of sustainably managing our interactions with the marine environment, in the face of increasing pressures from population growth and a global economy. While we have been making significant progress in this arena, there are constant reminders that we have not yet achieved our goal of supporting ocean-related industries while maintaining high ecological standards.
The recent oil spill of the Bouchard barge in Buzzard's Bay, MA, vividly demonstrates that we must be ever vigilant in striving for the balance between ecological protection and economic growthas well as the need to balance competing economic interestsin this case, an important local seafood industry with our need for energy. Although we have seen a marked improvement in the safe marine transport of oil since the passage of the Oil Pollution Act in 1990, all possible care must be taken to ensure that we have a system in place that adequately protects our marine environment.
Marine fisheries are also a vitally important component of our coastal economies and culture, especially in the Bay State. We are making progress in restoring our overfished stocks to sustainable levels, and we are committed to staying the course to reduce mortality, improve water quality and restore habitat. But we must press forward to ensure all nations are pulling their weight in providing sustainable fisheries management. Recent reports show international fleets have had a dramatic impact that appears to go largely unchecked. Living marine resources, particularly highly migratory species like tuna and swordfish, know no boundaries, and we cannot tolerate lawlessness by any nation in the management of these stocks.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act has proved to be a very successful conservation tool, bringing numerous species back from the brink of extinction. However, there is still much more to be done. I am particularly familiar with the example of the North Atlantic right whales, one of the most endangered species of marine mammals in the world, with a population of approximately 300 individuals. Unfortunately, our local New England waters are often the areas where these endangered whales literally collide with the fishing industry and the marine transportation industry. The plight of the right whales highlights the importance of working with a wide variety of interests to find solutions that will make a difference.
Congress has already asked a panel of experts to develop a plan of action for our oceans in the Oceans Act of 2000. This federal mandated U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy will help us understand what steps are needed to advance our knowledge and improve our management of the marine environment. Later this year, the Commission will make recommendations on how we can improve our ocean governance, investment and implementation, research, education and marine operations, and stewardship. Despite these great efforts, there is much more to do. Increased public attention to our Nation's ocean issues is essential if we are to make further headway. This is why, today, I am honored to join Senator SNOWE in introducing this resolution to declare the week of June 9, 2003, as National Oceans Week.