House Passes Ocean Observation Bill

April 3, 2008
Act will create integrated ocean observing system to monitor conditions

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the National Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observing Act of 2007. The act would create an integrated ocean observing system (IOOS) that will monitor and forecast ocean conditions, including the physical, biological and chemical components of coastal waters. The act would also increase understanding of complex deep ocean and coastal environments and promote the dissemination of information to local policymakers and the public.

An integrated ocean observing system will protect public health through the identification of marine toxins and pollutants in coastal areas as well as improving warnings of tsunamis, hurricanes, El Nino events and other natural hazards. The system will also enhance homeland security, support maritime operations and collect important information needed to address global warming, improve ocean health and provide for the protection, sustainable use and enjoyment of ocean resources.

"The ocean plays an integral role in our economy, environment and quality of life. Yet our understanding of the ocean and coastal environment is very limited," said Representative Thomas Allen (D-Maine) who introduced the bill. "We need the equivalent of the national weather service for the ocean and IOOS provides us with that predictive capability for the oceans," Allen said.

"The ocean science community has been working for more than a decade on developing observing systems, which will help us better understand, manage and protect our ocean and coastal resources," said Robert Gagosian, President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. The Integrated Ocean Observing System was identified as a central ocean priority by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (2003), the Pew Oceans Commission (2004), the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (2006) and the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy (2007). "Yesterday, Congress took a significant step toward making these recommendations a reality, which will fundamentally change how we study the ocean and transfer information into products and services for the public," Gagosian said.

The IOOS bill (H.R.2342) passed the House yesterday by voice vote. The Senate has yet to consider its version of the IOOS bill (S.950), which was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last year.

Source: Consortium for Ocean Leadership