Capitol Hill Swept Up by Oceans Week

Last week in DC, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation hosted Capitol Hill Ocean Week, or CHOW. It was a week full of interesting, insightful, and invigorating discussions about the state of our waters, and what needs to be done in the future. The theme of the week was “American Prosperity and Global Security: Ocean Solutions for the 21st Century,” and the panels and discussions truly aligned with this theme. Leading members of NOAA participated, as well as other high-ranking government officials. Senators Whitehouse (RI), Begich (AK), and Murkowski (AK) presented panels, and panelists included members of the US Departments of Energy, the Interior, State, and Transportation, as well as members of the US Coast Guard, the US Navy, the US Air Force, JAG, the USDA, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), the Canadian Embassy, and BP. As you can see, the panels were diverse, and the members each alluded to various parts of many threats facing our oceans.

There was a Leadership Awards Dinner on Tuesday night, where several people were honored for being Volunteer of the Year for various National Marine Sanctuaries, including our own board member, Lance Morgan, PhD., for his efforts in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Also honored was the late Senator Ted Stevens, who “was honored for his leadership as a US Senator in advancing national and global ocean policy. Over the course of his 40-year career in the Senate, Stevens became the leading voice for ensuring sustainable fisheries in US waters” (this from the NOAA NMFS website). For more information on Senator Stevens, and his valiant conservation efforts through programs such as the Magnuson-Stevens Act, click here. Senator Stevens’s daughter, Lily Stevens Becker, accepted the award in his memory. Following more panels on Wednesday, NOAA hosted their annual Fish Fry, a delightful event featuring creatively prepared sustainable seafood.

My favorite of the panels was entitled “Will Expanding the Ocean Knowledge Base Make a Difference for Security and Prosperity?” Dr. Jerry R. Schubel, President and CEO of Aquarium of the Pacific, hosted this panel. His lively energy and inciting questions made for excellent debate and discussion. The panelists were also incredible; they held an array of positions, and provided many different views on the same subjects. David Titley, Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy, was particularly captivating. He explained all the issues well, and even managed to slide in a few jokes here and there, keeping the audience awake and attentive. He discussed the need for knowledge and resources. The members of this panel unanimously agreed that the best way to convert information into action is finding a way to make the issues apply to the public’s daily lives. Do you think that sounds like a good idea? How can we make issues apply to daily life? What is the best way of conveying these issues?

The overall message of the week seemed to be, “There are a lot of issues, and we need to increase awareness of these issues, and then we need to do something to solve the problems”. It strongly reiterated the need for approval of Senator Whitehouse’s bill creating a National Endowment for the Oceans. (See last week’s blog for more info on the Endowment and how you can help!)

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