[Currents headergraphic]

June 29, 1998

Clinton announces new initiatives at National Ocean Conference

By Tim Stephens

The oceans held center stage for two days of high-level meetings June 11-12 in Monterey, where government officials, researchers, business leaders, environmentalists, and others gathered for the National Ocean Conference. Declining fisheries, polluted coastlines, global climate change, and damaged coral reefs were among the concerns discussed at the conference.

President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were both on hand to hear from experts on ocean science and policy and to announce a series of initiatives aimed at protecting valuable ocean resources.

UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood, addressing a panel on oceans and commerce, emphasized the link between the environment and the economy.

"Our environment, including our oceans and their diversity of plants, animals, and minerals, provides the natural capital that underpins our economy," Greenwood said.

Sustainable commercial use of the ocean's natural capital requires investments in ocean-related research and education, she said.

Clinton and Gore announced several initiatives to study and protect the nation's oceans, including increased funding for ocean exploration; declassification of ocean-related military data and technology; additional funding for climate-change research; a new Web site to inform the public of beach closings; and stronger protections for coral reefs in U.S. waters.

Gary Griggs, director of UCSC's Institute of Marine Sciences, said he was pleased to see these issues getting so much attention from the highest levels of the administration.

"It was a very impressive showing that demonstrates a broad-based interest in the oceans and their health," Griggs said. "It was also good to see the oceanographic community getting together to voice their concerns, and to see the Monterey Bay region getting national recognition as a major center of ocean-related research and education," he added.

Although some of the Clinton administration's policy announcements were more symbolic than substantive, they may still have very positive effects, said Donald Potts, professor of biology and a leader of efforts to study marine biodiversity in Monterey Bay.

"There is a momentum that we can build on now in developing our regional programs," Potts said.

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