Administrator's Remarks to the Ocean and Coastal Science Community

As delivered on Feb. 10 by Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator at the Ocean and Coastal Science Community Welcome Reception, Rayburn House Office Building

February 11, 2011

Good evening, and thank you Bob, for that kind introduction.

I am also grateful to the Representative Capps for hosting this event tonight. I am pleased to have this great opportunity to catch up with so many of you who care so deeply about our oceans and coasts.

I also thank Senator Whitehouse, Dr. Holdren, and Dr. Suresh for their sustained interest and leadership on these issues.

This is a critical time for our oceans and coasts. The oceans are changing; our uses of the oceans are changing; … our expectations and demands of the oceans and coastal areas are changing. The decisions we make now will impact the global health of the oceans for generations. They will impact the vibrancy of our coastal ecosystems, and they will impact the communities and economies dependent on the ocean resources.

NOAA is one of the 27 federal agencies Dr. Holdren identified with implementing the recommendations of the National Ocean Policy.

And we are committed to having it succeed.

As you may have guessed from our agency’s name, the oceans are central to the mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But the importance of the oceans extends far beyond the work of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. Understanding the oceans is vital to understanding the weather- from hurricanes, to winter storms, to the El Nino Southern Oscillation. This is critical information for farmers, for municipal water supplies…. for Washington D.C. commuters hoping to avoid being stuck in the snow.

Understanding the oceans is essential to understanding the climate and the effects of changes already underway, from understanding the capacity of the oceans as a reservoir of greenhouse gasses, to understanding the effects of ocean acidification.

Understanding the oceans is critical to recreational and commercial fishermen, to beach-going tourists, to commercial port facilities, and to oil and gas exploration. And it is critical to the economies and communities that all these groups support.

The observations required to understand the oceans rely on NOAA’s entire infrastructure: from our polar orbiting satellites, to our research ships,… to arrays of buoys across the Pacific, and to unmanned gliders under the sea.

Just as important, is the infrastructure of knowledge required to plan and interpret this work. Our scientists, our laboratories, and our academic partners are essential to meeting the challenge of ocean observations- … Essential to meeting this challenge with the technology of today. And essential to foster the innovations,… and a new generation of scientists and engineers, that will help us meet this challenge more effectively… and more efficiently.

Investments in this infrastructure are investments in our nation’s capacity for economically sound environmental stewardship. They are investments that will allow decisions to be made on the best possible science. They are investments in all communities that depend and rely on the oceans.

NOAA is not working alone. Across the Federal government, we are working with other agencies to facilitate strong partnerships and avoid duplication of efforts.

A cornerstone of the National Ocean Policy is the critical role of partnerships at all scales. The Federal Government is already working to improve interagency coordination for ocean management. In addition, many of the actions outlined in the Policy will be implemented at the local, state, and regional levels. Collaboration and working across boundaries are necessary for achieving the goal of building ocean resilience.

Just yesterday, NOAA and the Department of Commerce released a draft aquaculture policy for public comment. Representative Capps, I know this is an issue you care deeply about.

This draft policy was informed by the National Ocean Policy and the framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning.

Many of the themes found in the National Ocean Policy – such as protecting, maintaining, and restoring healthy and diverse ecosystems; supporting sustainable uses of the ocean; and increasing scientific understanding and applying that knowledge to make better decisions resonate in this aquaculture policy.

The themes of economic and social importance of the oceans and coasts are also a key part of this draft aquaculture policy. This is about jobs. This is about businesses. This is about providing a clear framework for the entrepreneur with a great idea. A framework that is nationally consistent, but also respectful of the unique regional character of our oceans and coasts.

The National Ocean Policy has provided us with a critical window of opportunity:

An opportunity to improve the alignment between our scientific understanding and decisions;

To reevaluate our existing policies and practices to build a more sustainable future;

And an opportunity to learn how to use the oceans without using them up.

But no one agency or institution can do this alone. I invite you all to join us, in your roles as scientists, citizens, public servants, and, most importantly, as ocean stewards, to ensure the health, resilience, and prosperity of America’s treasured oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes

Thank you.