Inspiring Ocean Stewardship through Art, Photography and Film
event during Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW)
National Geographic Society, Washington, DC
7 June 2012

Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. Under Secretary of Commerce
for Oceans and Atmosphere & NOAA Administrator

As Delivered

June 7, 2012

Thank you, Virginia [Tippie]. 

Good evening everyone.

Many thanks to National Geographic and Coastal America for helping us celebrate the beauty and bounty of our oceans with this event.

Thanks, also, to all of you - the ocean community – who work on the front lines to improve governance, programs, and public awareness of ocean issues.

Welcome and thanks to the 24 Coastal America Aquarium and Science Centers that make up the Learning Center Network. 

And to the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation:  We value your leadership in developing a North American network of marine protected areas, and for producing tonight’s MPA films with the learning centers.

And to our distinguished winners of the Coastal America Student Art Contest: A hearty welcome to you and your families!  Hearty congratulations to each of you!  You had a lot of competition – a whopping 1,600 contestants, so you should feel extra proud that your work was chosen!   

I was so pleased to learn that President Obama’s National Ocean Policy is the focus of the art contest. The National Ocean Policy is the first ever such policy in US history.  Why is it important?  Because it says that healthy oceans matter, that all of us need to work together to make or keep them healthy.  And that’s exactly why your impressive art pieces are so important.

How many of you saw the movie Finding Nemo?  There were a lot of different kinds of critters in that movie, weren’t there? How many different species do you think were represented in the Nemo film?  There were 1,568!   And the ocean is full of species we have not even discovered yet.

What fraction of those 1,568 would you guess is threatened by extinction?  1 in 6!  Clearly, we have our work cut out for us if we want to have healthy oceans!


We’re here tonight because we care about the oceans.

Art can be a powerful vehicle to tell a story, share information and stimulate action to promote healthy oceans.   Let me tell you a story about just how powerful films can be.

When Laura Bush was the First Lady, she saw a special screening of a film called Voyage to the Kure, a documentary film made by Jean-Michel Cousteau about the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  As Mrs. Bush tells the story, that film grabbed her attention and her heart, and prompted her to become a champion for oceans. Later that year (2006), her husband, President Bush, created what at the time was the largest marine protected area in the world - Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  Protection became immediate.

 There have since been even larger marine protected areas, or MPAs, created, but her passion and that film helped catalyzed the sea change.

MPAs are a powerful tool to conserve and manage our oceans.

The area that Laura Bush cared so much about, is a specially designated type of MPA. 
Papa hānau mokuā kea: Sounds like a mouthful, doesn't  it? 

Papahānaumokuākea is home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are only found in the Hawaiian archipelago. It provides important habitats for rare species. Papahānaumokuākea is of great cultural importance to Native Hawaiians in part because of its spiritual significance in Hawaiian cosmology.  In 2010, Papahānaumokuākea was inscribed as a natural and cultural World Heritage Site.

Across the Pacific from Papahānaumokuākea and just southwest of Guam is another large MPA known as the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.  The Marianas is best known as the place with the deepest point in the entire ocean.  That place is called the Challenger Deep.  Fifty two years ago, 2 explorers ventured 6.8 miles deep to touch down, then return from this special place.  One of them, Captain Don Walsh, is here with us tonight.  The National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation honored Capt. Walsh last night with its Lifetime Achievement Award. 

A little more than two months ago, James Cameron, a National Geographic explorer and filmmaker, became the first human to reach the Challenger Deep alone.  Imagine:  95 percent of what’s in the oceans is still unknown to us.  Cameron’s dive inspires us to explore the ocean…and the 3-D footage from his dive lives on as our ‘forever’ inspiration.

Well designed and enforced MPAs promote healthy oceans.

Tonight, we’ll see several short videos on MPAs. 

NOAA plays a pivotal role in many of the 1,700 MPAs in the US, either through direct management or support and coordination through programs like the National Marine Protected Areas Center –with the Department of the Interior – which coordinates across MPAs.

Some MPAs allow a variety of extractive activities such as fishing; others are completely protected from any activities that remove or damage anything inside.  The latter are often called ‘no-take’ marine reserves.  National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala calls these no-take areas ‘fish banks’ because they allow fish and other ocean life to thrive and multiply and often replenish depleted areas outside the no-take reserve.  Scientific studies have documented the considerable benefits of no-take reserves.  Fish get bigger, bigger fish have more young, and biodiversity increases.  As the fish bank gets crowded, fish move out and the benefit expands to the surrounding area. More fish outside the protected areas can mean better fishing outside. 

Let me give you an example to illustrate the immense reproductive benefit in protecting fish or invertebrates so they can grow to larger sizes.  Take a vermillion rockfish for example.  A 15 inches rockfish produces on average 150,000 young.  If that fish is allowed to grow to 24 inches, it produces on average 1.7 million young.

Scientific studies tell us one way to get the benefits of ‘no take’ reserves without having to designate immense areas is to create networks of smaller reserves within a larger area.  If individual reserves within a network are connected by ocean currents and spaced properly, they can serve as refuges within a larger area.  Fish and other ocean creatures swim, and many of them have juvenile stages that drift on ocean currents. Networks of no-take reserves provide another opportunity to provide protection. This is the path that the state of California has chosen to take to protect its biodiversity. 

Networks and partnerships of people and institutions are also needed.

The tri-national North American Marine Protected Areas Network – also called NAMPAN - is one such example.  NAMPAN connects marine places, institutions, and people in the network. 
NAMPAN is the driving force behind tonight’s MPA videos.

Partnerships also are critical to growth of ocean stewardship. For example, Coastal America Partnership works across federal agencies, state and local governments, and private organizations to protect, preserve, and restore our nation's coasts. 

As we sit back and enjoy this evening’s art, videos, young artists and discussion, let’s also sit back and reflect on what’s next for healthy oceans. 

The beauty and the bounty of the oceans inspired Finding Nemo and Voyage to Kure. The films inspired action.  Oceans inspire art … art inspires action.  And just as important:  Ocean issues belong to all of us.  Art helps bring us together.

Art and films are gateways to public understanding of the oceans.   Art is a powerful communication tool for inspiring people, communities, governments, and businesses to join together in working toward a healthy ocean future – a future we care deeply about.

This is National Ocean Month.  Tomorrow is World Ocean Day.  These designations say to the world, ‘Pay attention to the oceans!’ The National Ocean Policy helps us do just that.

Now is the time to inspire change. 

The time has come to grow our ocean community, reach out to unlikely partners, and build on the great efforts to date.

As we say at NOAA, let’s make healthy oceans EVERYONE’S business.  Let’s keep inspiring art and action together.


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