Whitehouse-Murkowski Bill Would Advance Understanding of Oceans, Great Lakes, and Coasts

BLUE GLOBE Act aims to support innovation, accelerate development of marine technologies, and improve monitoring of important bodies of water

U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), co-chairs of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus, have introduced legislation to advance data collection of the Great Lakes, oceans, bays, estuaries, and coasts. The Bolstering Long-Term Understanding and Exploration of the Great Lakes, Oceans, Bays, and Estuaries Act, or BLUE GLOBE Act, would accelerate technology innovation, plan for a stronger maritime workforce, and develop a better understanding of the Blue Economy.

“There’s still so much we don’t know about the oceans that cover the vast majority of our planet,” said Whitehouse.  “Smart investments in ocean research and technology will help shape a better understanding of the seas and coasts, and lay a foundation for more growth and job creation in the promising Blue Economy sector.  This is the first bill in a suite of legislation we’ll be introducing in the weeks and months ahead to protect the health of our oceans.”

“The preservation of our oceans and coastlines is critical to the health of the environment.  The more we know, the better equipped we are to protect our communities.  I’m proud that our bill, the BLUE GLOBE Act, will help harness innovation to drive the development of new technology.  By advancing data collection, we will be able to bring together economic development and growth, supporting responsible stewardship of America’s oceans, bays, Great Lakes, and estuaries.  For Alaska, this type of investment would increase opportunities for advancement across a number of industries—fishing, tourism, national security, and more.  An investment in America’s blue economy, is an investment in the future of Alaska,” said Murkowski.

The BLUE GLOBE Act would direct existing federal ocean-focused interagency committees to improve domestic and international coordination and enhance data management and accessibility, and accelerate ocean data and monitoring innovation by giving NOAA Cooperative Institutes a stronger focus on technology advancement.  The bill creates a new ocean innovation prize, and tasks the National Academy of Sciences with assessing the potential for an Advanced Research Project Agency–Oceans (ARPA-O).  The legislation would also add innovative technology components to the 2020 NDAA’s Maritime SAFE Act to better address Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.  This measure follows on successful work of the Oceans Caucus to support the passage of four international agreements aimed at combatting IUU fishing and the related enabling legislation.

“We are excited to see the BLUE GLOBE Act focus on the importance of monitoring and observations for our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes,” said Debra Hernandez, Chair of the IOOS Association.  “Observations provide us with the basic information to understand the changes that are occurring and to develop the information, alerts and assessment necessary for fishermen, emergency managers, rescue personal, resource managers, shippers and the general public.  The BLUE GLOBE Act supports the Integrated Ocean Observing System and other observing and technology efforts by enhancing coordination, encouraging innovation and supporting information technology.”

“Improved data collection and collaboration is fundamental to protecting and preserving the world’s oceans,” said Teki Akuetteh, Director for Public Policy at Vulcan Inc., a technology leader in the effort to identify and combat IUU fishing.  “As the international community looks to amplify blue and green recovery efforts, The BLUE GLOBE Act will help guard our water resources by catalyzing technology innovation and increasing data collection and collaboration across agencies.  Vulcan commends Senators Whitehouse and Murkowski for their leadership on these issues, which are vital to American and global prosperity.”

“The ability to observe and monitor our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes is critically important to our health, security, and prosperity as it affects everything from weather forecasts to sustainable fisheries management.  Fully observing the ocean, managing and sharing the resultant data, utilizing new and emerging technologies, and enabling the necessary partnerships to fully take advantage of observing opportunities are significant challenges.  I offer my sincere thanks to Senators Whitehouse and Murkowski for introducing the BLUE GLOBE Act, which will help us meet these challenges by growing data collection opportunities, increasing coordination, advancing emerging technologies (including e-DNA), and much more.  The BLUE GLOBE Act will help provide us with the crucial data needed to ensure the health, productivity, and sustainability of our ocean while supporting the Blue Economy — a critical part of the post-COVID recovery of our economy as a whole,” said RADM Jonathan White, USN (ret.), President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

The BLUE GLOBE Act reauthorizes a number of NOAA’s hydrographic activities, including nautical mapping and charting, hydrographic surveys, and the operation of hydrographic survey vessels, and directs heads of relevant federal agencies to more accurately measure the value of the Blue Economy.  The bill also calls for the National Academies of Science to conduct a study on the oceanic scientific workforce and steps the federal government can take to improve workforce diversity, remove barriers to transitioning scientists into federal careers, and develop a workforce program and plan.

The BLUE GLOBE Act was first introduced in the last Congress and was approved by the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in July 2020.

The bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus works to find common ground in responding to issues facing the oceans and coasts, which support millions of jobs in America.  The Oceans Caucus has focused on ending illegal fishing, reducing marine debris, and improving ocean data and monitoring.  Whitehouse and Murkowski founded the Caucus in 2011. 

Related Issues: Alaska's Fisheries, Arctic