Chairs named for new Senate Oceans Caucus

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Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., are co-chairs of the new Senate Oceans Caucus.

The group is designed to provide a platform for conversations about the country’s coastal bays, estuaries and oceans. The caucus will educate members by hosting briefings and lectures regarding the latest in ocean research and policy, from the state of coral reefs in the South to settling international disputes over Arctic resources.

“It’s an honor to be a leader of this caucus on behalf of the only state bordering two oceans,” Murkowski said in a statement. “The oceans are more than beautiful and important natural gifts. They are our farms, our factories of growth — and our future.

“Alaska has more miles of coastline than the rest of the country combined and is the reason America is an Arctic nation,” she added. “That means billions of dollars for Alaska from our prized fisheries and economic opportunities through responsible resource development. It also means Alaska is on the front lines of emerging issues like the Law of the Sea Treaty as diminishing sea ice is creating a wide range of opportunities for our state and nation.”

The group, which met last week for the first time, adopted a founding charter that lays out its principles and discussed the following issues: international and domestic fisheries policy; gaps in ocean science; and challenges to ocean and coastal resource management.

“I’m honored to join my colleagues today to announce the formation of the Senate Oceans Caucus,” Whitehouse said in a statement. “For coastal states like Rhode Island, our oceans are a vital part of our economy and our history, and we must take smart steps to manage and protect them as a resource for future generations. This caucus will work together on a bipartisan basis to help make that happen.”

Others who have joined the caucus include Sens. Mark Begich, D-R.I., Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Scott Brown, R-Mass.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; John Kerry, D-Mass.; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

The senators were joined at their first meeting by representatives of ocean and coastal organizations that support their efforts, including the Consortium for Ocean Leadership; the National Marine Manufacturers Association; the National Ocean Industries Association; the American Association of Port Authorities; the National Federation of Regional Associations for Coastal and Ocean Observing; and Ocean Champions.