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Press Release of Senator Cantwell

Cantwell, Snowe Introduce Legislation to Improve Ocean Observation and Monitoring

Legislation Will Aid Climate Research and Tsunami Detection

Wednesday, March 21,2007

WASHINGTON, DC - Wednesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Olympia Snowe (R-ME), introduced the Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2007. The bill would bolster ocean monitoring to improve tsunami warning, better understand the impacts of climate change on oceans, track ocean conditions that affect human health, improve homeland security, and support maritime operations.

"Increasing our understanding of the oceans and coasts is becoming more and more important, especially in the face of climate change," said Cantwell. "We're already seeing the effects of climate change on our marine environment off the coast of Washington state. A true nationally coordinated ocean observing system would supply the information we need to solve many of the ocean and coastal management problems we face."

Improving long-term ocean monitoring is a key recommendation of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and would help provide the information needed to restore and sustain healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems. Effective ocean monitoring aids fishermen and mariners who rely on accurate forecasts of ocean conditions for safety and navigation, and helps scientists understand how ocean conditions affect human health. For example, enhanced observation would improve tracking of harmful algal blooms that can lead to shellfish poisoning. Atmospheric CO2, which is driving climate change, is also responsible for ocean acidification that threatens coral reefs and food chains.

The Snowe-Cantwell legislation would establish a national program focused on national and international ocean observation, and support a network of regional associations across the country to collect and manage information on ocean and coastal areas. The bill would establish a system to organize data and develop and disseminate useful information. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would coordinate all observation efforts. The Snowe-Cantwell legislation authorizes a total of $150 million from 2008 to 2012.

Currently, most long-term ocean observing and data collection is carried out on a regional basis. While regional ocean observing systems provide valuable data, a lack of coordination at the national level combined with a deficiency in sustained resources limits their effectiveness for advancing a comprehensive understanding of our oceans and coasts. The Ocean and Coastal Observation Systems Act would organize regional activities under a federal interagency committee within NOAA. The Northwest region's ocean observing system, the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, would continue to coordinate the existing network of buoys and observation stations in Washington and Oregon, and carry out new projects in partnership with members of the maritime industry and scientists at three Northwest universities, including the University of Washington.