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Remarks by Vice President Gore to the National Ocean Conference

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release: Friday, June 12, 1998


Five hundred years ago, the great Portugese explorer Vasco de Gamadrew distant lands a little closer when he began the very first oceanvoyage, around the Cape of Good Hope. Today, we can communicate acrossthat great distance instantly, and cross it in a matter of hours. Yet thegreat ocean depths remain largely unexplored -- their natural wondersbarely glimpsed, their potential bounty unknown.

That is why this historic Oceans Conference is so long overdue. Andit is why President Clinton's commitment to protect, harvest, and exploreour oceans is so important.

Oceans are critical not just to our economy, not just to our foodsupply, not just to America's trade and security -- but also to the fabricof life itself. They are perhaps the greatest natural treasure on God'sEarth. We have a profound obligation to protect our oceans -- so that allgenerations can reap their benefits, and marvel at their deep blue majesty.

We call our planet the "Earth," but in truth, it holds a lot moresaltwater than soil. Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface -- andcontain 99 percent of all its living space.

If those statistics seem surprising, here are a few that hit evencloser to home: Oceans sustain one out of every six American jobs, andcoastal areas produce 85 percent of all our tourism dollars. In fact,beaches are the leading tourist destination in America. That may be whyalmost half of all construction in the United States during the 1970's and1980's took place in coastal areas.

Fish and marine life are increasingly used for path-breakingmedicines, including new cancer treatments and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Then there is the simple matter of quality of life. It is estimatedthat within thirty years, a billion more people will be living along thecoasts than are alive today.

Given those statistics, it is surprising that we know so little aboutour oceans. Until recently, we knew more about the surface of the moonthan about the ocean floor.

Here is what we do know: more and more, we are polluting coastalwaters, exhausting important fisheries, and threatening the rich coralreefs that are the rain forests of the sea. Poor stewardship of the oceansis bad for the environment -- but it is also bad for our future, because itcontaminates our beaches, compromises our food supply, and robs us of aprecious resource that depend upon.

For 5 1/2 years, I have been proud to serve with President Clinton, whois not just one of the greatest environmentalists in modern times; he alsounderstands the need for balanced, sustainable development -- the need toprotect our natural resources so we can continue to use them and enjoythem.

President Clinton's record on these issues is clear: thanks to hisleadership, we have formed creative new partnerships to protect waterquality in the Florida Keys and in the San Francisco Bay Delta -- and abold new plan to restore the glorious Florida Everglades. Thanks to hisconcern for fisherman and their families, we took emergency action save NewEngland's cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder from near-extinction.Because of his commitment to marine science and exploration, we're workingto protect and restore large sections of damaged coral reef off the coastof Florida. And because he knows that our environment and our economy mustgo hand in hand, we are helping states dredge important ports and harborsin ways that are good for both the environment and the economy.

Mr. President, history will record that you are the very firstPresident to chart a clear course for our oceans and waters -- to expandexploration and research; to protect fisheries and fishermen; to promotemarine-based commerce; and to expand trade and security by preservingfreedom of the seas. To use the language of the sea, America is proud tohave you at the helm. This is the day we move full speed ahead.

In yesterday's plenary sessions, we learned a great deal about thechallenges we face in protecting our oceans for the 21st Century. Today,we look forward to hearing President Clinton's vision for how we meet thosechallenges. I know he is determined to help us seize the opportunities ouroceans offer, so that their glistening waters can keep inspiring allAmericans -- in this year of the ocean, and every year. President BillClinton...

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What's New - June 1998

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