Mikulski Launches New Initiative to Protect World's Oceans

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) has launched a national initiative to increase visibility and conservation for oceans, which are under threat around the world. Senator Mikulski has requested that the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, co-chaired by Admiral James D. Watkins (Ret.) and former Congressman Leon E. Panetta, make recommendations on steps Congress can take to better fund and assist the implementation of the Commission's previous proposals on ocean policy reform.

"Oceans are key to our way of life - they affect everything from our food supply to industry and commerce around the world. We have a duty not only to protect them, but everything living in them," said Senator Mikulski. "As a coastal Senator, I know how important oceans are to our economy and our future. I will fight to make sure they are a priority in the federal checkbook."

Joining Senator Mikulski in this initiative are a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues: John E. Sununu (R-N.H.); Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.); Thad Cochran (R-Miss.); Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.); Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.); Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii); Ted Stevens (R-Alaska); Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

Two major national commissions - the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission, chaired by Watkins and Panetta respectively -released reports in 2003 and 2004 that identified similar core priorities and recommendations in a number of key areas. These priorities included the need for wide incorporation of ecosystem-based management, ocean governance reforms, improved fisheries management, increased reliance on science in management decisions, and more funding for ocean and coastal programs. Following the release of the reports, the commissions joined in collaboration as the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Admiral Watkins and Mr. Panetta:

The Senate has adopted the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission as the basis for much of its work on ocean policy. As the Senate continues to turn these recommendations into actions, we would appreciate a report from the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative that answers the following questions:

* What are the top 10 actions Congress should take to implement the recommendations made by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission?

* What are the highest priorities for funding needed to support the development and implementation of ocean policies that are consistent with the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission?

* What are the priority changes to law and the federal budgeting process needed to establish a more effective and integrated ocean and coastal governance approach?

We appreciate the input the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative has provided to the Senate during the last year and believe that the breadth of expertise of the commissioners, as well as the Joint Initiative's bipartisan and balanced approach to addressing ocean-related issues, reflects the interests of the Senate on the vital issues. Your report on these questions will help us focus on the most specific and urgent recommendations not yet addressed by the Senate and will give us a framework for future action.

The opinions expressed in this article represent the views of Senator Barbara Mikulski, or the specific person or organization that is quoted. Senator Mikulski is one of two federal senators for the state of Maryland. She is classified as a Class III Senator. Senators are elected to six-year terms, and every two years the members of one class-approximately one-third of the Senators-face election or reelection. Terms for Senators in Class I expire in 2007, Class II in 2009, and Class III in 2011.

Ms. Mikulski's website is located at http://mikulski.senate.gov/. Her office can be reached at (202) 224-4654. More biographical info on Ms. Mikulski can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Mikulski.

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