Oceans sustain life on earth and provide us with many vital resources. They are a source of food, energy, commerce, medicine, and recreation. They shape our weather, link us to other nations, and are critical to our national security. In the 21st century, we will look increasingly to the oceans to meet our everyday needs. From restoring our beaches, bays and coastal areas to leading international negotiations to protecting migratory fish stocks, President Clinton and Vice President are committed to protecting our oceans.
International Oceans Protection:
Ocean Dumping of Low-Level Radioactive Waste - Led the world in calling for a global ban on ocean dumping of low-level radioactive waste at the London Convention in 1993. The U.S. was the first of the nuclear powers to advocate the ban, and successfully convinced our allies and the rest of the world to follow our lead.
Endangered Right Whales - Sought strong measures to protect the remaining 300 North Atlantic right whales. Under the U.S. proposal, commercial ships will be required to report when they enter a right whale's habitat and will receive advice on avoiding collisions.
Coral Reefs - Founded International Coral Reef Initiative with seven other nations in 1994 to mobilize efforts to protect and restore the world's fragile reefs. The effort has led to joint research, information sharing, and enhanced awareness of the state of reefs around the world.
Dolphin Protection - Led negotiations resulting in a multilateral agreement to protect dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Helped shape consensus legislation that the United States Senate passed 99-0. The Act became law in August 1997.
Migratory Fish Stocks - Worked with other nations to secure a legally-binding international treaty to protect migratory fish stocks. Over-fishing in the world's oceans has put thousands of Americans out of work and depleted a major source of food for people around the world. The United States ratified the agreement in August 1996.
Land-Based Source of Marine Pollution - Hosted Washington Conference and led negotiations to shape a global plan of action to address land-based sources of marine pollution.
Maritime Security Act of 1996 - Supported the enactment and implementation of the Maritime Security Act of 1996 which signaled the beginning of a new era for America's maritime industry. Under the Act, a merchant fleet comprised of modern, efficient, and militarily useful commercial vessels will maintain a competitive U.S. flag presence in international commerce.
Persistent Organic Pollutants - Led the international call to address dangerous "persistent organic pollutants" because they threaten health and safety around the world. Because of the Administration's leadership, all parties agreed to develop a legally binding treaty to phase out 12 of the most dangerous persistent organic pollutants.
Release of Classified Documents - Released formerly classified ocean data collected by the Navy during the Cold War, giving scientists valuable new information about the world's oceans.
Clean Water Initiative - Launched a $2.3 billion clean water initiative to restore the 40 percent of waters that remain too polluted for fishing or swimming. Set tougher public health and environmental standards to protect coastal waters from polluted runoff and children from unsafe beaches.
Polluted Runoff in Coastal Areas - Worked with states to approve 29 state management programs for controlling nonpoint sources of pollution in coastal areas. Required programs to include enforceable mechanisms to control polluted runoff -- one of the greatest sources of water problems in the United States today.
Wetlands Protection - Adopted an ambitious goal of achieving a net gain of 100,000 wetland acres per year by 2005 to restore the natural filters for the oceans and the waters that feed them. This includes extensive coastal restoration work through the Senator Breaux's Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act. The Administration also has made the wetlands regulatory process more protective, phasing out a nationwide permit that had resulted in tens of thousands of acres of wetlands loss annually.
Historic Bay-Delta Accord - Signed a landmark agreement restoring the Bay-Delta's 1,600 square miles of river and bay which meets the needs of agriculture, urban areas, and hundreds of species of fish and wildlife. 102 species of fish and countless other plants and animals will benefit from the improved water quality.
Sediments - Completed the first comprehensive survey of contaminated sediments that threaten our oceans and fisheries, and President Clinton issued an executive order broadening the authority of Federal natural resource agencies to order cleanup of sediments contaminated with hazardous substances.
Harmful Marine Organisms - Responded with direct aid and support for affected states when Pfiesteria closed several rivers in Maryland and Virginia in 1997. Federal agencies developed a coordinated research strategy, as part of a broader interagency to address harmful algal blooms and other marine organisms that cause "dead zones," red tides, brown tides, and other threats to the help of our oceans.
Oil Spill Prevention - Worked proactively, both nationally and internationally, to prevent the accidental release of oil from all sources, especially from vessels. We have negotiated with the International Maritime Organization to require higher construction standards for new tankers. Domestically, we have vigorously implemented the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, resulting in dramatic reductions in U.S. oil spills from all sources. We continue to strengthen our response and prevention capabilities among Federal and State government and industry to ensure that accidental releases of oil will be rapidly stopped and controlled, and that damage to the environment is minimized.
Navigation - Resolved a decades-old controversy over harbor dredging in New York Harbor, while closing and using dredge material to remediate an ocean dump site that had endured a century of contamination and created decades of concern among the region's fishermen. The Administration also has helped link harbor dredging to environmentally beneficial reuse of dredged material in the Port of Oakland and Ports throughout the Nation.
New England Groundfish Crisis - Took emergency action in 1994 to close portions of U.S. waters of Georges Bank and southern New England to commercial fishing to save cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder from severe depletion and economic extinction. Provided $60 million in federal aid to fishermen and their families, and also conducted a $24 million fishing vessel buyout. Since then, all but one of the groundfish populations has shown signs of rebuilding and many fishing families were able to obtain job assistance or low interests loans with the help of the federal government.
El Niņo - Successfully predicted the onset and associated impacts of one of the strongest El Niņo events on record. Forecasts that El Niņo conditions were developing and would have significant impact on global weather patterns were issued more than six months in advance. The extent of use and the confidence of the users were unprecedented.
Protecting Ocean and Coastal Habitat:
National Marine Sanctuaries - Established three new National Marine Sanctuaries in Washington, Florida and Hawaii protecting one of the most diverse marine mammal faunas in North America, a critical link in the Pacific flyway, and the winter breeding home of the largest Pacific population of endangered humpback whales.
Salmon Habitat - Negotiated groundbreaking agreements with Oregon, Maine and California to develop state conservation plans to protect dwindling populations of salmon. The agreements provided additional protections for the majestic fish to prevent them from being listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Atlantic Striped Bass - Developed successful program to rebuild populations of Atlantic striped bass. After years of decline and low abundance, the number of striped bass have reached an all-time high, resulting in a fourfold increase in angler participation in the last six years.
Whale Sanctuaries - Fought for and achieved the creation of a new 12 million square mile whale sanctuary off the coast of Antarctica-which, combined with an adjacent Indian Ocean sanctuary, is home to three-quarters of the world's whales.
Restoring the Everglades - Undertook, with the State of Florida, the most ambitious environmental restoration plan in history. Since 1993, over $700 million in Federal funding has been secured for Everglades restoration. The project has utilized innovative and flexible restoration approaches to protect and restore the water quality of South Florida.
Coastal Wetland Restoration - Working with the State of Louisiana to restore lost or altered coastal wetlands. Currently there are 14 restoration projects underway in the state that total to over 65,000 acres (100 square miles). The projects range from freshwater diversions, hydrologic restoration, barrier island restoration, shoreline protection and wetland creation.
Gray Whales - Removed the North Pacific gray whale from the Endangered Species list in 1999, one of the Endangered Species Act's success stories. The gray whale was listed as endangered throughout its range in 1970. As a result of ESA protection, the species has fully recovered.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary - Established the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which includes 2,800 square miles of ocean off the Florida Keys, in cooperation with the State of Florida. To protect the biodiversity of America's most significant coral reef ecosystem, the Sanctuary used an innovative marine zoning approach, designating 21 areas free from consumptive use. Already, we are seeing more fish and increased biodiversity in the area.
Sea Turtle Protection - Developed, with the shrimp fishing industry, a device that allows sea turtles to escape from shrimp nets. This device, called a Turtle Excluder Device, or TED, has reduced the number of turtles captured by this fishery along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts by an estimated 40,000 per year. We have also provided technical expertise and training to over 40 nations on installing and using TEDs in their shrimp nets to reduce accidental drowning of sea turtles in foreign shrimp trawl fisheries.
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