Whitehouse, Murkowski Unveil Bill to Advance Understanding of Oceans, Great Lakes, and Coasts

BLUE GLOBE Act would 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, today unveiled new 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 the BLUE GLOBE Act, would accelerate technology innovation, grow the marine workforce, and develop a better understanding of the blue economy.

“We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about our own oceans,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Senator Murkowski and I have proposed a bipartisan bill to help give the oceans the attention they are due.  It’s time to invest in research, technology, and a future workforce that will shape a better understanding of our seas, Great Lakes, and coasts.”

“Our oceans are one of the Earth’s most valuable resources. With the growth of the ocean economy projected to outpace the global economy, this is an opportunity that our nation must capitalize on. But in order to do so we need to invest in the necessary technology to produce reliable data and observations that will allow us to strategically link economic growth and stewardship of our oceans, bays, lakes, and estuaries. This will open the door to increasing Alaska’s sustainable seafood production, support our coastal communities and residents, and develop stronger transportation, recreation, and energy production,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to help ensure we have robust, reliable information to foster the development of our blue economy.”

The BLUE GLOBE Act would charge existing federal ocean-focused interagency committees to improve domestic and international coordination and enhance data management and accessibility.  It would also establish an Interagency Ocean Exploration Committee to promote exploration and monitoring of the oceans.  The legislation would ensure a high-level ocean committee will continue in the Office of the President, regardless of the administration.

The BLUE GLOBE Act would accelerate ocean data and monitoring innovation by giving new and existing NOAA Cooperative Institutes a stronger focus on technology advancement.  It creates a new 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 launch a new Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Tech Force, to coordinate the development of technologies to address 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.

The BLUE GLOBE Act reauthorizes a number of NOAA programs and directs heads of relevant federal agencies to more accurately measure the value of the Blue Economy.  It also looks to indigenous, subsistence, and fishing communities as a source of ocean information.  The bill calls for the creation of a workforce development program to support undergraduate, graduate, and informal education in fields relevant to ocean data and monitoring.

"I'm pleased that Congress recognizes the value of ocean observations and data to the nation's national security and economy,” said Molly McCammon, Executive Director of the Alaska Ocean Observing System. “In Alaska, which has the nation's largest coastal boundary including the Arctic,  we need to ensure all agencies, private parties, including the Alaska Ocean Observing System, are working collaboratively to provide the best data possible for decision making in an environment of rapid change."

“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 paramount to protecting and preserving the world’s oceans,” said Johan Bergenas, Senior Director for Public Policy at Vulcan Inc., a technology leader in the effort to identify and combat IUU fishing.  “The BLUE GLOBE Act will help guard our water resources by ramping up 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 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.  It currently has 41 members.