Marine mammals are some of the most beloved animals in our ocean. Whether you have a soft spot for majestic whales, playful seals or adorable sea otters, you have reason to celebrate. Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an important piece of legislation that protects all marine mammal species found in U.S. waters.
When Secretary of State John Kerry recently appointed Admiral Robert Papp, the former head of the U.S. Coast Guard, as a Special Representative for the Arctic, the Obama Administration signaled that they are taking the upcoming 2015-2017 U.S. Chair of the Arctic Council very seriously. Considering the multitude of threats to the Arctic—from climate change to oil drilling to increased shipping—it could not have happened soon enough. As the United States begins to represent the Arctic on the international stage, Ocean Conservancy has been working with the Obama Administration to ensure that the U.S. adopts a visionary agenda that prioritizes international cooperation, wildlife protection, and aggressively addresses the causes of climate change.
Just a week after the House of Representatives passed its proposed budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved its NOAA proposal, funding research and activities that influence the health and strength of our ocean economy and coastal communities.
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will debate the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill – an important bill for the ocean because it sets the annual budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Many amendments will be introduced to alter the bill; as far as the oceans are concerned, there’s good news and bad news.
Recent posts on The Blog Aquatic have focused on the Bering Strait: the 50-mile-wide gateway that separates Alaska from Russia, and that provides the only marine passage between the North Pacific and the Arctic oceans.
Two weeks ago, we highlighted the extraordinary abundance of wildlife that migrates through the Bering Strait each spring—from bowhead whales and ice-dependent seals to walruses and seabirds. We also emphasized the importance of the region’s highly productive marine ecosystem to the residents of coastal communities who rely on marine resources to support their subsistence way of life and cultural traditions.
On April 23, the National Research Council (NRC) released a new report that reviews state of science and technology with respect to spill response and environmental assessment in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. Ocean Conservancy provided recommendations and comments to the NRC as it conducted its research last year.
Now that the NRC has published its final report, we are pleased to see that it confirms what we’ve known all along: there are major barriers to effective oil spill response in Arctic waters. These include lack of information, lack of infrastructure, and lack of preparedness to deal with adverse environmental conditions.