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Coastal issues discussed at Providence show

The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association held a business roundtable Friday at the Rhode Island Convention Center in conjunction with the Providence Boat Show. The topic was the recently formed U.S. Senate Oceans Caucus and its potential impact on the industry and the state.

The speakers were U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Jim Currie, legislative director of the National Marine Manufacturers Association; Susan Swanton, executive director of the Maine Marine Trades Association; and Dan Pingaro, chief executive of Sailors for the Sea, a non-profit organization focused on the worldwide protection of the oceans.

Formed last September by Whitehouse and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the bipartisan caucus was created to increase awareness and find common ground in responding to issues facing the oceans and coastlines.

“We are a maritime state — the Ocean State,” Whitehouse said, noting that problems related to ocean health are important to representatives of all coastal states, from which the caucus has recruited members. “And this caucus is providing a vehicle for those of us in the Senate who care about oceans and maritime issues to get things done.”

Whitehouse urged members of the industry to contact him at scheduling@whitehouse.senate.gov with their ideas and priorities.

Currie spoke of the challenges he faces as the chief lobbyist for the industry during a federal election year when there is a partisan political stalemate in Congress.

“We have 12 million boaters who generate $14 billion in revenue and support 363,000 jobs,” Currie said. “When the White House is making policy, it’s critical we keep their feet to the fire and make sure they understand that recreational boating and all things that go into it are a powerful driver of our economy.”

Pingaro, who heads a group that is the “official sustainability partner” for the America’s Cup and organizes “clean regatta” programs worldwide, said his organization, founded by David Rockefeller Jr. in 2004, strives to galvanize the marine industry to be environmentally responsible.

Pingaro said his group is pushing for voluntary standards within the industry to reduce the environmental footprint of every company.

— Rich Armstrong

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