With our oceans and coastal resources, and the economies and jobs they support, facing constant and increasingly direct pressure from a variety of sources, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators today met to form a new Senate Oceans Caucus. The Caucus will work to increase awareness and find common ground in responding to issues facing the oceans and coasts, which support millions of jobs in America and contribute more to the country's GDP than the entire farm sector, grossing more than $230 billion in 2004.
Following today's inaugural meeting, the members announced that U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will serve as Caucus Co-Chairs. Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), as Chair and Ranking Member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, will serve as Honorary Co-Chairs of the Senate Oceans Caucus to promote effective coordination with the subcommittee. Other Caucus members are Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Scott Brown (R-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), John Kerry (D-MA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
"I'm honored to join my colleagues today to announce the formation of the Senate Oceans Caucus," said Senator Whitehouse. "For coastal states like Rhode Island, our oceans are a vital part of our economy and our history, and we must take smart steps to manage and protect them as a resource for future generations. This Caucus will work together on a bipartisan basis to help make that happen."
"I am proud to represent both the Pacific and Arctic Ocean interests as the Senate Oceans Caucus begins our important work," said Senator Murkowski. "To Alaskans, our vast coastlines connect us to our farms and our factories for growth - whether it's our bountiful fisheries or resource opportunities. To an outlying state like Alaska, it's also our interstate highway system for shipping, tourism and commerce. We must make bipartisan decisions today to guard them as they help feed our future growth."
During today's meeting the senators adopted a founding charter which lays out the principles for the Caucus, and specifically discussed the following issues: international and domestic fisheries policy, gaps in ocean science, and challenges to ocean and coastal resource management.
"The oceans drive Alaska's economy though commercial, recreational and subsistence fishing, tourism and international commerce," said Senator Begich. "I welcome the formation of this caucus and its bipartisan approach to dealing with the many challenges and opportunities of our oceans. As chair of the Oceans and Fish subcommittee I am pleased to see the Senate focus on this important resource that impacts every single one of us, and people around the globe."
Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere and Coast Guard, said "Indisputably, the health of our watersheds and oceans is inextricably linked to the sustainability of our economy in Maine and in coastal communities nationwide. Throughout my tenure as Ranking Member on the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, I have worked to enhance management and protection of the nation's invaluable coastal and ocean resources. The Senate Oceans Caucus is a major step forward in our recognition of the significant environmental and economic roles played by our oceans, and through this coordinated bipartisan effort that centralizes key priorities from all of our stakeholders and industries, our caucus has the potential to speak in a loud and unified voice on behalf of our coastal resources, yielding significant economic and environmental benefits for us all."
"In my home state of Hawaii, we depend on the Pacific for food, shipping, recreation, and tourism," said Senator Akaka. "This caucus is an excellent opportunity to find common ground and drive local economies with healthy fishing, tourism, and manufacturing industries."
"The Long Island Sound plays a central role in Connecticut's economy and environmental landscape, and the Senate Oceans Caucus presents another opportunity to protect it. The Sound is truly a national treasure, and we must work diligently to preserve it, as we must with all of America's coastline," said Senator Blumenthal. The maritime industry supports millions of jobs in Connecticut and across the country, and I look forward to working with this bipartisan caucus to protect our oceans, preserve ocean communities, and grow the industries they support."
"Protecting our oceans is critical to California's $23 billion coastal economy, which supports nearly 390,000 jobs in tourism, fishing and recreation," said Senator Boxer. "I am pleased to be part of the bipartisan Oceans Caucus, which will work to find common-sense solutions that protect our oceans and strengthen our economy and our coastal communities."
"The ocean plays a vital role in the Massachusetts economy, from our fishing industry to our ports and harbors, and tourism - all are very important to preserving and creating jobs," said Senator Scott Brown. "As a founding member of the Ocean Caucus, I look forward to discussing the important impact our oceans have on our economy as well as solutions to the challenges they face in a bi-partisan and open forum."
"For centuries, the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound have helped shape and define Washington state's culture, people and way of living," said Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), member of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard. "Washington state's coastal region has sustained entire industries for generations and today supports 162,000 jobs and generates $9.5 billion in economic activity. In this new role, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to preserve and restore our nation's diverse marine resources to ensure they remain vibrant and bountiful for future generations."
"Marylanders understand the essential role that water and our oceans have in a healthy economy and healthy environment. I'm proud to be a part of this bipartisan effort to prioritize good stewardship of American waters so that they can sustain native fish, wildlife and our coastal economies for generations," said Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee.
"Delaware enjoys many rewards as a coastal state. Each year, millions of residents and visitors relish our pristine shores, which helps create jobs and economic activity throughout the state," said Senator Carper. "But with those rewards come many challenges. The state's coast line and coastal communities face serious threats from climate change and rising sea levels - threats that other coastal states face as well. The Senate Oceans Caucus will bring together Members from ocean states to discuss how to work together to sustain and improve our oceans and the communities that depend on them for their livelihood."
"Our oceans are important not only to the health of our planet, but to the economic vitality of our states," Senator Coons said. "Between tourism, recreation, energy, shipping and fishing, a wide variety of industries in my home state of Delaware are dependent on the seas. The oceans are part of who we are, and we must do all we can to protect them. That's why I joined the Oceans Caucus, and why I look forward to working with my colleagues in exploring ways the Senate can help protect our oceans."
"We in Hawaii know what it means to protect the ocean. For us, the ocean is very important. It is our home. We live in the middle of it. Caring for the ocean and being good stewards of our marine ecosystem is of the utmost importance to any island community and Hawaii is no different. We must maintain the delicate balance between mankind's evolution and pollution free oceans where marine life can thrive. The sea provides us with so much. It gives us food and energy to power our way of life. Research and scientific discoveries conducted at sea shape all aspects of our daily lives. Our beaches help drive our economy by attracting visitors to Hawaii's shores from around the world. I look forward to participating in this caucus and working with my colleagues to ensure that the world's oceans are protected," said Senator Daniel K. Inouye.
"The Ocean Caucus will help focus attention on everything from laws that govern the seas, affect jobs and vital industries, concern our marine ecosystems, and protect our waters off Massachusetts," said Senator Kerry. "I'm proud to co-found this important effort here in the Senate."
"I am proud to join my Senate colleagues from so many different coastal states on this caucus focused on preserving the nation's oceans.," Sen. Landrieu said. "These oceans and the coasts that join them are a precious resource that provide an enormous benefit to the economy. Particularly along the Gulf Coast, which is the heart of America's working coast, contributing $3 trillion to the national economy and 17% of the National GDP. As a member of this caucus, I look forward to continuing my efforts to highlight the need to restore the Gulf Coast and ensure that Gulf coast states get their fair share of tax revenue collected from the oil and gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico."
"I am honored to add my voice to this bipartisan caucus," said Senator Patty Murray. "Healthy oceans and coastlines lead to sustainable, family wage jobs and the beautiful natural environment that we enjoy in Washington state. This caucus will ensure we have the opportunity to discuss these very important issues."
The Senators were joined today by representatives from ocean and coastal organizations supporting their efforts, including the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the National Federation of Regional Associations for Coastal and Ocean Observing (NFRA), and Ocean Champions.