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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Director Applauds Clinton Signing of Oceans Act

August 7, 2000

President Clinton today signed bipartisan legislation establishing a high-level national advisory board to recommend policies to balance ocean ecology and economics by promoting the protection and sustainable use of America’s oceans and coastal resources. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Director Robert Gagosian, a long-time supporter of expanding understanding of how the oceans work and using them wisely, attended the signing ceremony at a U.S. Coast Guard station on Martha’s Vineyard.

Gagosian, a chemical oceanographer who has served as Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution since January 1994, attended the National Oceans Conference in 1998 in Monterey. Later, he privately briefed the President, Vice President and other senior White House and Cabinet officials on ocean science research, education and exploration. He also recently attended a White House Millennium event highlighting ocean exploration.

“I am personally pleased to have been invited to witness the signing of this important legislation,” Gagosian said. “Our oceans should be a national priority given their importance to the daily lives of our citizens. I believe that understanding the oceans will be key to our ability to sustain life, and the quality of life, as we know it on this planet. The population of this nation is increasingly moving to the coast, placing mounting pressures on an already burdened system. Expanding knowledge of how the oceans work and how they interact with the land and atmosphere are key. This legislation will shine a very bright spotlight on the oceans, something that has not been done since the Stratton Commission 30 years ago.”

The Oceans Act of 2000, signed today, establishes a 16-member Commission on Ocean Policy to make recommendations for a coordinated and comprehensive national program. The President will appoint members of the Commission, most of them individuals nominated by the Majority Leader of the Senate (4 members), Speaker of the House of Representatives (4 members), Minority Leader of the Senate (2 members), and Minority Leader of the House of Representatives (2 members). The President will select the remaining four members. The Act will take effect January 20, 2001. The Commission will submit a final report within 18 months to Congress and the White House of its findings and recommendations regarding U.S. ocean policy.

Among the purposes and objectives of the Oceans Act of 2000 is promoting the protection of life and property against natural and manmade disasters, responsible stewardship, including use, of fishery resources and other ocean and coastal resources, and the protection of the marine environment and prevention of marine pollution.

The Oceans Act also calls for promoting the enhancement of marine-related commerce and transportation, the resolution of conflicts among users of the marine environment, and the engagement of the private sector in innovative approaches for sustainable use of living marine resources and responsible use of non-living marine resources. The legislation will also promote the expansion of human knowledge of the marine environment including the role of the oceans in climate and global environmental change and the advancement of education and training in fields related to ocean and coastal activities.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s mission parallels the intent of this legislation to protect, use and manage the oceans wisely, ” Gagosian said. “We need to understand how the oceans interact with land and atmosphere and to communicate that understanding to policymakers and to the public. That is critical as the global population doubles every 40-50 years, placing even greater pressures on the coastal and open oceans. We are moving quickly toward the day when we can understand the oceans well enough to be able to predict warm winters, droughts, difficult hurricane seasons, and other climate patterns.”

Other provisions of the Act include promotion of continued investment in and development and improvement of technologies for use in the ocean and coastal activities. It also calls for close cooperation among government groups and the private sector to ensure coherent and consistent regulation and management of ocean and coastal activities, also calls for the preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in ocean and coastal activities.