Cantwell Calls on Commerce Secretary Nominee to Put Science First, Protect Salmon, Act on Washington Economic Priorities

Cantwell: Investing in “salmon infrastructure” desperately needed in communities throughout Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing with Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, President Biden’s nominee to be U.S. Secretary of Commerce. At the hearing, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the incoming Chair of the committee, spoke about the importance of the Department of Commerce to the economy and way of life in the Pacific Northwest and asked Raimondo about her plans for salmon and fisheries management, protecting scientific integrity, and COVID-19 recovery.

In her opening statement, Cantwell talked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Washington’s maritime economy and highlighted the critical need to get recovery funds to those impacted: “One of the key responsibilities will be in response to the larger COVID pandemic in the country and what we should do about it. I hope that the Secretary of Commerce will play an important role in strengthening our economy, in trying to defeat the pandemic and recover from its economic impacts,” Cantwell said.

“All of our sectors have been impacted. Congress appropriated $600 million in fisheries assistance for state and Tribal needs, but so far, the fishermen and our state have yet to receive $1 from this program, so I hope we can get her assistance in implementing and moving forward on this.”

Later in the hearing, Cantwell secured commitments from Raimondo to work on increasing investments in salmon habitat and prioritizing fisheries management. Cantwell asked: “As we’re talking about a seafood and fishing economy, salmon is particularly important to the Pacific Northwest. Keeping salmon habitat and restoration in a very robust state is very critical to keeping salmon. So will you work with us on a more targeted, larger-scale investment in stormwater restoration and in building critical habitat for everything from oyster reefs to eel and seagrass and critical habitat?”

“Yes, I would very much look forward to working with you and other members of the committee,” Raimondo responded.

“We believe in good fisheries management policy, and the key to that is stock assessment. And so I hope you’ll work with us on increasing the amount of dollars that go into the science behind stock assessment so we can make good management plans,” Cantwell continued.

“Yes, again absolutely. I plan to lead with science and lead with data,” Raimondo said.

As part of her focus on reprioritizing science and data, Cantwell also spoke about increasing the department’s investment in weather forecasting and emphasized the importance of safeguarding scientific integrity and listening to science throughout the department: “In my opinion, there's no reason why the United States should not be a leader in weather forecasting. This is an important issue for us, whether you're talking about fires or you're talking about ocean issues. Making a better, crucial investment in the science for maritime, aviation, space, and agriculture industries will be very important for us moving forward,” Cantwell said.

“I appreciate that [Raimondo] will lead the agency in making decisions based on science and data that will help our economy grow in the future, everything from oceans issues and fisheries to spectrum and space issues. We in the Pacific Northwest know that we can’t always agree on issues, but we know we can agree on science, and that’s why science needs to continue to prevail.”

Cantwell also emphasized the importance of trade to Washington’s economy: “I hope that we will continue to look at this issue of competitiveness. In my state, [roughly] one in four jobs are related to trade, and I hope the Secretary and the administration will make a goal for export advancement. Increasing exports is a great way to grow our economy.”

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found HERE and audio is HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with Raimondo can be found HERE and audio is HERE.