Legislators “Sea” Wave Of Ocean Bills

2019-05-13T15:51:44+00:00 May 13, 2019|
(Credit: Pablo Clemente-Colon / National Ice Center)

(Credit: Pablo Clemente-Colon / National Ice Center)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife held a legislative hearing. The subcommittee heard testimony on several bills, including the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act Amendments of 2019 (H.R. 1314), National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2019 (H.R. 2405), and Digital Coast Act (H.R. 2189).

Why It Matters

Changes in our ocean, from melting sea ice and acidifying waters to increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, will have significant impacts on coastal communities, affecting tourism, infrastructure, and food security. The challenges we face because of a changing planet can be mitigated by understanding the problems, preparing communities, and planning ahead. Data from ocean observations are critical to addressing these challenges, as is connecting federal, regional, and local decision makers to these data. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the premiere federal agency for ocean data, so it is vital that Congress take a leading role in ensuring these data are collected and used to develop effective policy.

Key Points

The bills discussed at the hearing — almost all of which have bipartisan support — covered a wide breadth of ocean science issues, from fisheries and invasive species management to ocean observation and education. Ms. Molly McCammon (Executive Director, Alaska Ocean Observing System (a COL member institution)), testified at the hearing on several bills, primarily focusing on the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act Amendments of 2019 (H.R. 1314) and the National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2019 (H.R. 2405).

Housed at NOAA, the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) is an innovative partnership that connects 18 federal agencies and 11 regional coastal observing systems. Before IOOS, ocean and coastal observations were dispersed, not easily accessible, and funded through short-term research grants. All 11 regional IOOS associations operate regional data centers with visualization tools and information products tailored to the decision-making needs of local users. The National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant) provides support and solutions for coastal communities, economies, and environmental quality, as well as research and work experience for the next generation of ocean scientists. Both programs offer extensive outreach and education capacities to help communities and stakeholders make decisions and adapt to future environmental changes.

Ms. McCammon stressed the importance of programs like IOOS and Sea Grant to providing vital ocean and coastal data, creating jobs, improving environmental quality, and supporting the blue economy. She described the unique partnership between the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) — a regional component of IOOS — and the Alaska Sea Grant program. In Alaska, the Sea Grant office trains young fishers on the business of fishing with tools in marketing and business advice, while AOOS provides ocean data to the managers of those fisheries.

Ms. McCammon also provided examples of how IOOS data and Sea Grant extension research benefit people who live and work in coastal communities nationwide. For instance, IOOS and Sea Grant extension programs in the Pacific Northwest support regional coastal acidification networks by working with scientists, shellfish farmers, and managers to understand impacts, identify research and monitoring needs, and work towards mitigation solutions such as restricting the intake of acidic waters at these sites. In the Gulf of Mexico, IOOS buoys and gliders are used to forecast hurricane intensity, which informs local Sea Grant programs working with communities to make them more resilient to storm effects.

The Digital Coast Act (H.R. 2189) was also presented as a way for public-private partnerships to provide tools, data, and training that local governments, organizations, industries, and individuals need to protect themselves from future coastal risks.


“Another bill would reauthorize the Integrated Ocean Observing System, a federal partnership led by NOAA whose mission is to produce and integrated high-quality ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes data to meet the nation’s safety, economic, and stewardship needs. This is especially critical in the face of climate change and rising sea levels.”— Chairman Jared Huffman (CA-2)

Next Steps

The next step is for the subcommittee to mark up the bills and report them to the full committee. Favorably reported bills will be marked up by the full committee and voted on, and those that pass out of the full committee will be sent to the House floor.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership          

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