U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., ranking member and chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, yesterday reintroduced the National Ocean Exploration Act. The bill would authorize the National Ocean Mapping, Exploration, and Characterization Council, update national priorities for ocean mapping, exploration, and characterization, and direct the Council to coordinate and facilitate activities across federal and non-federal entities to advance those priorities.
“We need to improve the way we map, explore, and characterize the deep seas,” said Wicker. “This bill would serve as a catalyst for new underwater discoveries. It would make important information available through multi-sector partnerships and ensure the ocean remains a valuable source of American prosperity.”
“This bill will elevate ocean science at NOAA and across federal agencies, it will renew a focus on mapping and ocean research, and it will allow for innovative partnerships and cooperative agreements to expand our ocean exploration efforts,” said Cantwell. “NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Program supports Pacific Northwest research from mapping the Arctic to facilitate shipping, tourism and commerce, to exploring the biological and cultural importance of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.”
“With Alaska’s vast coastline and our changing climate, the responsible exploration, stewardship, and development of our nation’s oceans is as important as ever,” said Murkowski. “I’m proud to join in sponsoring this broad legislation to establish a robust national ocean exploration program designed to modernize and move forward nationwide priorities for ocean mapping, exploration, and characterization. This comprehensive bill reauthorizes key NOAA programs that support ocean and coastal mapping, hydrographic surveys, and spatial data collection. It also includes funding increases that will allow the federal government to continue investing in this critical work. For a state as undermapped as Alaska, sustained federal attention and investment into ocean mapping will be absolutely imperative to close the charting backlog in the Arctic and bring our spatial datasets into the 21st century. Alongside my and Senator Whitehouse’s BLUE GLOBE Act, I am pleased to see this legislation advance our knowledge of our ocean spaces to ensure that we can capitalize on opportunities to strengthen Alaska’s and America’s blue economy.”
“There’s still so much to learn about the oceans,” said Whitehouse. “Rhode Island’s Blue Economy stands to benefit from more and better ocean mapping, and an improved understanding of our most important natural resource.”
“We still have more to learn from Papahanaumokuakea,” said Schatz. “Strengthening NOAA’s ocean exploration program will increase both the tempo of discovery, and the capacity to manage this Marine National Monument and World Heritage Site.”
The National Ocean Exploration Act would:
- Authorize and improve the National Ocean Mapping, Exploration, and Characterization Council;
- Reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s existing Ocean Exploration, Ocean and Coastal Mapping, and Hydrographic Services programs from fiscal years 2021 to 2030; and
- Establish a system to enhance the public accessibility of ocean-related National Environmental Policy Act documents and the geo-referenced data included in them.
Click here to read the bill.