OceansLIVE

Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2016

What started as a small, one-day conference in 2001 is now a weeklong event bringing together more than 600 national and global policymakers, scientists, scholars, business and conservation leaders every June.

CHOW drives a national dialogue on ocean science, research, policy and management. By bringing leaders, stakeholders and advocates together, CHOW increases awareness of ocean issues, celebrates achievements and advances meaningful initiatives and policies. It has become a popular platform for significant ocean policy announcements and a setting to mark national milestones for ocean stewardship.

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Last year, CHOW convened members of the U.S. IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud Task Force to discuss how the Administration is moving forward to implement the Action Plan recommendations, the first of which was passage of the Port State Measures Agreement. In Fall 2015, Congress passed the Port State Measures Agreement and the President signed it into law. In February 2016, the U.S. became the 21st party to ratify the Port States Measures Agreement with only four more countries to go before it becomes international law. What’s next and how do we build on this accomplishment? CHOW 2016 will bring together front-runners of technology, enforcement, industry and policy to examine the international picture of monitoring, control and surveillance or “maritime domain awareness,” the key problems and vulnerabilities in need of solutions, and some of the initiatives and innovations and third party investments that may be able to provide the level of monitoring, control, and surveillance needed to ensure stewardship over our global ocean fisheries.

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A recent report about the staggering scale and extent of plastic pollution in the ocean stated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the ocean. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic ends up in waterways and the ocean every year. And while plastic use is expected to continue to double in the next 20 years and quadruple in the next 50 years, currently only 5% is effectively recycled. According to the report, after a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or $80–120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. The reuse and re-thinking of plastic products presents a win-win opportunity for corporate leaders and innovative businesses to recover lost materials and resources that will help their bottom line while also reducing the negative impact on the ocean. This session will take an in-depth look at industry first movers to examine how industry and entrepreneurs can create new markets and incentives for the recovery of materials and resources, re-evaluate product lifecycles, incentivize extended producer responsibility programs, explore alternative sourcing of materials and waste to energy technologies, and prevent plastic litter from entering the marine environment.

Monday, 13 June 2016 00:00

A Changing Offshore Energy Portfolio

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True energy security will come from diversifying the U.S. energy portfolio, including its offshore energy sources. Developing a mix of offshore energy sources can mitigate risks from volatile prices and other economic impacts, reduce dependence on outside producers, help meet climate change commitments, and create greater certainty and confidence for businesses, investors, utilities, and communities. In the foreseeable future, the U.S. will continue to rely on domestic offshore oil and gas production. The Administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022 includes millions of acres in the Central and Eastern Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and Cook Inlet for exploration and development. But with the persistence of low oil and gas prices, traditional energy companies are facing tough times resulting in sharp cuts to investments in production and exploration in order to weather the storm. Bucking convention, investment in renewables increased in 2015. This year marks a major milestone for domestic offshore wind energy. Deepwater Wind will become the first U.S. wind energy project in operation with an expected start date later this summer. This project is leading the way for an emerging industry that has been gaining momentum. Offshore wind has the potential to ramp up quickly with recent announcements to meet the Paris climate change commitments; the Administration awarding more offshore wind energy leases in the Atlantic and Pacific; and more confidence for businesses, investors, and utilities. CHOW 2016 will look at the state of America’s changing offshore energy portfolio; factors affecting future oil and gas exploration and the potential mid- to long-term implications and production lags due to current market conditions; and how wind energy is primed to become a bigger contributor to the energy mix.

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This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the landmark legislation that set up the framework for managing U.S. fisheries to be sustainable—extending U.S. waters from 12 to 200 miles and establishing eight regional councils with the mission of conservation and management. Today, through a number of amendments, the science-based framework established under the MSA, U.S. fisheries are globally recognized as a model of success in responsible fisheries management. Knowing what species come out of the water, and how much of each, is key to the science-based process for managing fisheries to be sustainable. For a long time, people known as at-sea observers collected critical data on commercial fishing activities. However, advancements in technologies, such as onboard cameras, offer new alternatives to complement the work of onboard observers. Simple camera systems are being used to monitor compliance in some fisheries. In others, more complex systems designed to tally catch are being developed and implemented. Widespread use of video monitoring systems is complicated by numerous factors including cost, data accuracy, complex hardware and software, boat sizes and designs, and the damage that can be done to electronics when exposed to saltwater and pounding waves. CHOW 2016 will discuss how government, fishermen, private industry and other stakeholders are working together to overcome these challenges and guide the wise use of electronic monitoring.

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According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, world aquaculture production tripled in the past 20 years, representing the fastest growing food-producing sector. Last year, global aquaculture exceeded wild-capture fisheries. The vast majority of aquaculture production takes place in Asia, with the greatest growth currently registered in Africa and South and Central America, while the U.S. remains a major importer of seafood. Despite all the advantages of developing a domestic marine aquaculture industry in the U.S.—from environmental benefits, sustainable supply, food security, and an increase in both high-tech jobs as well as year-round employment opportunities for fishermen and processors—advancing aquaculture still needs to address permit paralysis due to a maze of laws, jurisdictions and agencies; sourcing and seafood transparency practices; and pollution, escapement, and impacts on the environment. From Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, California to Washington and Hawaii, the potential to grow a domestic supply of sustainable seafood and supplement the wild-capture fisheries remains at a standstill. CHOW 2016 will explore promising solutions and the continued obstacles for a growing domestic industry to see if the U.S. can become the global leader in sustainable marine aquaculture production.

Monday, 13 June 2016 00:00

The Vision for Gulf Restoration

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On April 4, 2016, a federal judge signed the consent decree approving a historic $20.8 billion settlement for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest marine oil spill in US history. Under the settlement terms, BP will pay over $13 billion for restoration, recovery, and research activities in the Gulf to address the immediate and long-term impacts to the coasts and offshore environments. These fines are in addition to $2.54 billion in criminal penalties resulting from plea agreements with BP and Transocean. All of this restoration funding will be distributed through three separate processes, each with different circumstances and managed by different entities. And, with only a portion of these funds awarded or committed to projects so far, this is a pivotal time to advocate for a strategic, comprehensive vision for Gulf restoration efforts among the Natural Resource Damage Assessment leads, the Restore Council, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. CHOW 2016 will bring together the major decision makers and local players to connect the dots, better coordinate and streamline processes, and find ways to leverage resources in order to make a greater impact for the entire Gulf region.

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Scientific studies, reports, and media coverage continue to document the dramatic changes in the Arctic. Indigenous Arctic communities are standing on the front lines of change. Their culture, traditions, and way of life are inherently tied to the health of the marine ecosystem. With this connection to the environment, Native Alaskans have valuable traditional knowledge and insights to offer in understanding changes in vegetation, wildlife, and larger ecosystem shifts that affect their subsistence hunting and fishing practices; the health of their food supply that affects their human health and nutrition; sea ice conditions, melting permafrost, and coastal erosion that affect their homes and businesses. But, as the marine environment opens to economic and security opportunities, more changes are on the horizon with expected increases in international maritime commerce and trade, energy development, and mining and mineral extraction. Arctic residents must live with the consequences of policy and management decisions and balance environmental protections and sustainable economic development. CHOW 2016 brings forward indigenous leaders to discuss how local voices and traditional knowledge can contribute to planning for a sustainable Arctic economy and a better future for Alaskan communities.

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With the increasing frequency and intensity of storms and extreme events, coastal erosion, and flooding, coastal communities across the country are taking action to make their cities more resilient. Communities need the information, tools, resources, and partnerships to be able to better prepare, plan, and respond as they face these challenges. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy roared toward the Mid-Atlantic coast with wind, waves, and storm surge that devastated the coastal communities in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. To protect their communities, leaders from all parts of the community have been coming together to promote smarter development, improve investments, utilize natural barriers, and reduce future economic risks and losses. CHOW’s signature Leadership Roundtable brings together these leaders, including federal and state governments, business leaders, and local leaders, to discuss how their communities came together to rebuild more resilient environments, communities, and economies.

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The true value of the ocean and coasts is only beginning to be understood and quantified after centuries of being underestimated and discounted. A 2015 study estimated a $24 Trillion asset value of the world’s ocean. Understanding the interconnectedness and the dependence of local, national, and global economies and communities to Earth’s natural capital, governments, businesses, citizens, and philanthropists have identified the need for smart investments in monitoring, protecting, and restoring the health of our ocean. This session will look at the ocean financial portfolio to ask what investment decisions would and should be made acting as smart stewards. It will address how smart investments in the future of the ocean need to include planning for long term impact over short term gains; managing risk while maximizing rewards; spurring, coordinating, and leveraging public resources and private capital; and re-investing in this natural capital to ensure the sustainability and longevity of the marine environment as the backbone of many communities and economies.

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The origins of America’s best idea are rooted in the need to balance public use and enjoyment with conservation and to preserve pieces of our natural and national history for the benefit of society. Since then, Congress and Presidents alike —with leadership from both parties—have designated parks and other managed areas to protect America’s iconic places encompassing natural wonders and awe-inspiring landscapes, cultural artifacts and storied battle fields. Parks on land and in the sea are valued as centers of their communities serving as economic engines for tourism, jobs, and businesses; safe havens for wildlife; relaxing escapes for recreation and improving quality of life; and outdoor classrooms and laboratories to inspire the next generation. As the National Park System celebrates its centennial anniversary, CHOW 2016 will bring together leaders in place-based conservation to focus on the present and future of blue parks, including success stories of communities working together to conserve our shared heritage, and advance a blue parks legacy to entrust to our children and grandchildren for the next 100 years.

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It is time for the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes to be a national priority and for more Americans to see themselves as part of the ocean movement. But, the ocean movement needs to preach beyond the choir in order to gain momentum and relevance in a changing world. Diversifying the ocean movement is an opportunity to connect, inspire, and empower people with backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and values as diverse as the fabric of America. There are many ways to begin to improve diversity in the movement from educational programs and partnerships to career advancement and leadership positions. By creating a more open and inclusive environment, millions of new supporters would surely translate into more public support, more members, a larger volunteer base, and richer partnerships. CHOW 2016 will explore how to harness the power of diversity to strengthen the ocean movement and have a stronger influence on policies and decisions.

Wednesday, 08 June 2016 00:00

Opening Keynote

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Christy Goldfuss
Managing Director
White House Council for Environmental Quality