THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
|For Immediate Release:|| ||Thursday, June 11, 1998|
REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE
NATIONAL OCEANS CONFERENCE, PLENARY SESSION
I'm delighted to welcome all of you here today -- in thisInternational Year of the Ocean -- for America's very first NationalOceans Conference.
Thomas Mann once wrote that "the sea is not landscape. It is theexperience of eternity." I think all of us, at some point in our lives,have felt that sense of romance with the ocean -- the sense that those darkblue waters are more than a source of food and commerce and scientificinsight; they are also a source of inspiration and pride. They are perhapsthe single greatest natural treasure on God's Earth.
That is why this conference is so long overdue. There is no othernatural resource upon which we depend so much -- but about which we know solittle. Together, we must find new ways to protect, harvest, and explorethe oceans that are so crucial to the fabric of life itself.
Early in the nineteenth century, Lord Byron wrote these words: "Rollon, thou deep and dark blue ocean...ten thousand fleets sweep over thee invain...but [man's] control stops with the shore."
That may seem true. But increasingly, we are learning that we cancontrol the dark blue waters -- both for good and for ill.
Oceans have become a rich source of economic growth. They sustain oneout of every six American jobs; our coastal areas produce 85 percent of alltourism dollars; and our beaches are now the leading tourist destination inAmerica.
But too many of those precious waters suffer from overfishing andpollution -- threatening our food and water, and jeopardizing the beachesin which our children swim.
Our oceans are an endless universe of exploration and discovery --home to the dazzling coral reefs that are the rain forests of the sea; akey source of life-saving medicines and treatments; and a crucial barometerof weather and climate.
But for all that underwater potential, oceans are too often aneglected scientific resource. Until recently, we knew more about thesurface of the moon that we knew about the ocean floor.
Just moments ago, I was aboard the MBARI's Western Flyer, and I sawthe stunning "remotely-operated vehicle" which is able to gather specimensand geological samples, drill holes in the bottom of the ocean floor, andeven take broadcast-quality video -- kind of an electronic JacquesCousteau. It made me realize just how much scientific knowledge is now atour fingertips -- and how important it is for us to harness it.
That is why I was pleased to make several new announcements thismorning that will dramatically increase our understanding of the oceans,and also our efforts to protect them.
We will launch a new $4 million effort to explore and map the U.S.domestic ocean -- to discover life-saving drugs, to find new forms ofmarine life, and to finally assess the full economic value of our oceans.
We will launch new partnerships with states, local communities, andthe private sector to reduce pollution in coastal waters, and tell thepublic when beaches must be closed.
We will develop a new and sophisticated ocean monitoring system, togive us a better understanding of the critical relationship between oceansand global warming.
And we will declassify and release to the public secret Navy andmiltary data about the oceans -- data that will teach us an enormous amountabout climate and weather systems.
Of course, we have much more to do, in each of the four areas you havecovered in today's issue forums:
First, the environment -- how we must balance the economic growth thatcomes from our seas, and the fish, water, and fragile ecosystems thatthrive within it.
Second, commerce. As ports flourish and tourism continues to grow, wemust look for creative and sustainable ways to harness the growth thatcomes from fishing, shipping, and tourism.
Third, exploration and research. In the 21st Century, the oceans canyield profound new scientific breakthroughs. We must seize these newopportunities now, because we don't have a moment to waste.
Fourth, global security. With so much of our security and tradefloating upon those dark blue waters, freedom of the seas is in our clearnational interest. We must work with other nations to safeguard it.
I'm eager to hear your reports from all four of these forums. I wantto discuss your separate conclusions -- and also how these four areas forma synergistic whole. Your work can help us develop a comprehensive agendato protect and harness our oceans for the 21st Century. There is nogreater challenge for all of us, and for all of America.