Cantwell Hearing Examines Health of 'Blue Economy'

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, held a hearing on “The Blue Economy: The Role of the Oceans in our Nation’s Economic Future.”


The blue economy is comprised of economic activities that emerge from our ocean, Great Lakes, and coastal resources.  The oceans and coasts provide many goods and services to the nation; however, they are rarely recognized as a crucial part of the U.S. economy.  


According to the National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP), which released a report on the Blue Economy yesterday, the ocean economy comprised over 2.3 million jobs and contributed over $138 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States.   In 2007, counties in the coastal watershed were home to over 156 million people and 69 million jobs, which contributed $7.9 trillion to the nation’s economy.


In Washington state, maritime industries contribute as much as $3 billion to the state’s economy each year from commercial fisheries alone. 


The NOEP’s report, which includes a summary of the economic impacts of these industries on Washington state, can be found at:  http://noep.mbari.org/NationalReport/ 



Cantwell’s Opening Statement, As Prepared for Delivery:


“Good Morning.  I’d like to thank my colleague Senator Snowe and all of our witnesses for participating in today’s hearing.


“Today, we will shine a spotlight on the Blue Economy and its contribution to our nation’s economic health and revitalization. 


“The “Blue Economy” – the jobs and economic opportunities that emerge from our oceans, Great Lakes, and coastal resources – is one of the main tools to rebuilding the U.S. economy.


“Americans from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Seattle, Washington and as far inland as Topeka, Kansas rely on our oceans for numerous goods and services from food to fuel to rain for crops and cures for cancer. 


“Today, the ocean and coastal economies of the U.S. provide over 50 million jobs for Americans and contribute nearly 60 percent of our GDP. 


“We also rely on our oceans for the trade in goods vital to our economy.  Nearly 80 percent of U.S. import and export freight is transported through seaports.


“In my home state of Washington, our history and economy is based on a rich maritime tradition that contributes as much as $3 billion to the state’s economy each year from commercial fisheries alone. 


“For example, there are 3,000 vessels in Washington’s fishing fleet that employ 10,000 fishermen


“There is also great untapped wealth in our oceans that will lead to new jobs and businesses. 


“Fungus living on seaweed, bacteria growing in the mud of the deep sea, and sea fans may hold the keys to curing cancer and other deadly disease. 


“Aquaculture is a growing industry along our shorelines and in the deep blue waters. 


“And concern with climate change is fueling interest in new blue jobs in renewable ocean energy. 


“According to a report released yesterday by the National Ocean Economics Program, the strength of the Blue Economy is dependent on the health of our oceans and coasts.  And today, our oceans are in peril. 


“Climate changes, ocean acidification, pollution, overfishing, rising sea levels, and marine debris all have economic, social, and environmental costs to ocean and coastal economies. 


“Protecting our oceans is an environmental ­and economic imperative.  There are steps we need to take to maintain our Blue Economy. 


“First, we must pass comprehensive climate change legislation to reduce our carbon emissions. 


“Second, we must strengthen the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by doubling its budget in the next four years and creating a strong mission for the agency through an organic act. 


“Third, we must find new approaches to incorporate ecosystem-based management in oceans.


“Our Blue Economy faces an uncertain future. 


“It has been a foundation of our economy for centuries in the past and it holds tremendous potential to be growing economic generator for our future. 


“The challenge is to strike a balance between maintaining the economic and social benefits of our oceans and coasts while protecting vital marine ecosystem functions.”