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Preserving America's Ocean Treasures

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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 13, 2000

Preserving America's Ocean Treasures

Today, President Clinton signed legislation extending protection for America's special ocean habitats. The President signed the National Marine Sanctuaries Amendments Act of 2000 (S. 1482), thereby extending and improving the management of the nation's 13 marine sanctuaries. Marine sanctuaries protect Florida's fragile coral reefs, lush kelp forests off Monterey Bay and the Channel Islands, nursing grounds for Hawaii's humpback whales, and significant maritime history including the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor.

Preserving America's Marine Treasures Congress established the National Marine Sanctuary Program in 1972, one hundred years after the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, our nation's first National Park. Marine sanctuaries extend this nation's proud conservation ethic to the sea, and today 13 marine sanctuaries provide increased protections for over 18,000 square miles of ocean habitat. National marine sanctuaries enjoy broad bipartisan support, and the President acknowledged the Congressional leadership of this legislation for their efforts. Over the past seven years, the Administration has worked with Congress to increase funding for the sanctuary program fivefold to $26 million, with an additional increase requested for this fiscal year. We have also added new sanctuaries off Massachusetts, Florida, Washington, Hawaii, and, most recently, Michigan.

In administering the marine sanctuaries, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, marine sanctuaries work with local citizens to find the best possible solutions to the tough challenges communities face in protecting the marine environment. A recent report by the National Research Council provides strong scientific support for the use of marine protected areas, such as marine sanctuaries, to sustain fisheries, preserve valuable habitats, provide outdoor leisure opportunities, and maintain healthy marine ecosystems. On May 26, President Clinton issued an executive order calling for more effective use of marine protected areas.

Extending Ocean Conservation, Encouraging the Next Generation of Scientists In signing the National Marine Sanctuaries Amendment Act, the President reaffirmed this nation's commitment to ocean conservation. In addition to strengthening and extending the sanctuary program, the Act provides the following:

  • Authorizes $32 million in fiscal year 2001, with levels increasing by $2 million a year through fiscal year 2005. It also authorizes $6 million a year in fiscal years 2001 through 2005 to provide the facilities needed to manage these special places.
  • Allows for greater protection of the coral reefs off the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, one of few remaining major coral reefs complexes affected little by human development. These remote islands are home to approximately 70% of America's coral reefs, and endangered monk seals and sea turtles.
  • Establishes the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarships to recognize outstanding scholarship, particularly by women and minorities, in the fields of oceanography, marine biology, and maritime archeology. The scholarships are named in memory of Dr. Nancy Foster, a 23-year NOAA employee who as director of NOAA's ocean service worked to expand and strengthen marine sanctuaries.

Safeguarding Our Oceans and Coasts. The Clinton-Gore Administration continues to work for healthier beaches and cleaner coastal waters, greater protection for endangered and threatened marine species, sound fisheries management, and support for marine protected areas. To better address long-term challenges, the President and Vice President launched a national dialogue leading to a comprehensive strategy for strengthening federal ocean policy for the 21st century.

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