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World Ocean Whirlwind

As always, the week surrounding World Ocean Day is a whirlwind of announcements. Here’s a brief summary of some of the major news from the biggest week in ocean policy, 2021:

NOAA Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Budget Request

On Wednesday, NOAA released the Congressional Justification for its FY22 Budget Request. This detailed document provides policy and budget-line level details for funds requested in President Biden’s FY22 Budget. NOAA is requesting almost $7 billion, a ~$1.5 billion increase from its FY21 budget. The increased funds would support the agency in measuring, predicting, and adapting to the impacts of climate change, investing in ecological restoration and community resilience, achieving the Biden Administration’s offshore wind expansion goals, integrating equity across NOAA, and investing in observational infrastructure.

Here are a few details that stood out to us:

  • Offshore wind - NOAA would use $20.4 million to support the Administration’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 while protecting biodiversity and promoting ocean co-use.

  • Uncrewed systems - $4 million would go towards innovative research and development to move ideas to testable technologies and eventually to operational use within NOAA. This program is new in the FY22 budget.

  • Aquaculture - $17.7 million would be used for the implementation of the National Aquaculture Development Plan and the ongoing Aquaculture Opportunity Area process. This request is up $378,000 from FY21.

  • IUU fishing - NOAA is requesting $2.7 million more for fisheries enforcement than it did in FY21, bringing that program request up to $77 million. These funds would be used to strengthen NOAA’s efforts to detect and deter Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and enforce restrictions on imports of illegally-harvested and improperly-documented seafood.

  • Ocean observing - NOAA is requesting $29 million more than in FY21, for a total of $69.5 million. The increased funds would be used to establish a marine life program in IOOS to foster ecological resilience, to fund competitive grants to advance coastal and ocean modeling, and to bolster multi-purpose mooring technology.

Legislative Action

On Tuesday, the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act was introduced in the House by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-03) and 26 Democratic cosponsors. The bill is an updated version of the sweeping legislation Grijalva introduced last fall, which was the topic of a high-profile Natural Resources Committee hearing on November 17, 2020. The new bill was announced in a press release put out by the Natural Resources Committee, which Grijalva chairs, and was accompanied by a one pager, section-by-section, summary of changes from the last version, and a short video of Grijalva discussing the need for ocean-based climate solutions.

Some of the new bill’s major provisions include new requirements for shipping emissions, the elimination of fishing subsidies in trade agreements, the codification of Regional Ocean Partnerships, creation of a NOAA grants program for living shorelines, and establishment of a manufacturer’s fee on virgin single-use plastic production. It does not mandate action on 30x30—a major component of the version introduced last fall—because the Biden Administration is already pursuing the initiative.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate passed Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2021, which will make it illegal to possess, buy, sell, or transport shark fins or any product containing shark fins, except for certain dogfish fins. The legislative language was included in Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) US Innovation and Competition Act, formerly known as the Endless Frontier Act, after Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) offered it as an amendment during a marathon 6-hour Commerce Committee markup last month. The US Innovation and Competition Act passed in a 68-32 roll call vote.

Congressional Committee Hearings

The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment debuted the ‘OceanShot’ program during a hearing titled “Defining a National ‘Oceanshot’: Accelerating Ocean and Great Lakes Science and Technology” on Monday. Topics discussed included ocean observation, marine aquaculture, weather forecasting, and the blue economy, with witnesses and Members of Congress calling for greater investment in ocean science and technology. You can find our full summary here. Witnesses included:

  • Craig McLean, NOAA Acting Chief Scientist and the Assistant Administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

  • Dr. Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences at UC San Diego

  • Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory

  • Dr. Bob Ballard, President of Ocean Exploration Trust and a National Geographic Explorer-at-Large

Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW)

CHOW’s theme this year was building justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. In a panel with NOAA political leadership, Karen Hyun, Letise LaFeir, and Walker Smith discussed how they are working together to execute the Biden Administration’s priorities of fighting climate change and promoting equity with the new budget request (our summary of their panel here).

During the “Build Back Bluer” panel, pre-recorded videos from Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Sen. Carper (D-DE), Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI), and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04) affirmed their commitment to supporting administrative priorities related to climate resiliency and coastal infrastructure. The panel closed with a conversation between representatives from a variety of diverse ocean and clean energy organizations on how to encourage equity in executing ocean initiatives and programs (our summary here).

The closing plenary focused on collaboration, including the importance of community, traditional knowledge, use of metrics, and strategic communication (our summary here).

Relevant Announcements

World Ocean Day Announcements from Our Partners:

  • Ocean Power Technologies and the International Ocean Science & Technology Association sent an open letter calling on the United States, and governments worldwide, to increase their investment in the innovation of blue technology, in line with the commencement of the UN Ocean Decade.

  • UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission announced Seabed 2030 as one of the first Actions officially endorsed as part of the UN Ocean Decade.

  • Pepsi Stronger Together announced a partnership with Force Blue and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for Force Blue x Pepsi Stronger Together Coastal Conservation Ops, a summer-long series of four marine conservation initiatives, including marine debris removal, coral disease monitoring, sea turtle survey and rescue, and beach clean-ups, in coastal communities around Florida.

  • Finless Foods announced that they have developed a plant-based tuna product, broadening the startup’s portfolio beyond cell-cultured tuna.

  • The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Association bestowed the 2021 Caraid Award to Dr. Libby Jewett in recognition of her outstanding contributions to ocean observing.

Other News:

  • On June 1, President Biden announced a Proclamation on National Ocean Month, 2021

  • The US, in partnership with the UK, Chile, Costa Rica, and France, launched the International Partnership on Marine Protected Areas, Biodiversity and Climate Change, which will work to advance Marine Protected Areas as a climate solution.

  • The first official Marine Economy Satellite Account statistics was released Tuesday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The report highlighted that the marine economy accounted for 1.9 percent, or $397 billion, of US GDP in 2019 and that the GDP for the marine economy grew 4.2 percent in 2019, faster than the 2.2 percent growth for the overall US economy

  • The Department of the Interior announced its intent to assess potential opportunities to advance offshore wind development on the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf.

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