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Protecting Our Oceans and Coasts May 26, 2000

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 26, 2000

May 26, 2000

President Clinton, in a visit to Assateague Island National Seashore at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, will announce new protections for America’s beaches, coasts, and ocean resources. The President will: direct the Commerce and Interior departments to develop a plan to permanently protect Hawaii’s rich coral reefs; issue an Executive Order directing agencies to establish a network of ocean conservation areas; and direct the Environmental Protection Agency to take new steps to limit pollution of beaches, oceans and coasts. In addition, the President will call on Congress to approve his Lands Legacy initiative, which proposes record funding for protecting ocean and coastal resources.

New Stresses on Our Oceans and Coasts. The Clinton Administration has taken major steps to protect marine resources, including: extending through 2012 a moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing; leading international efforts to protect whales and other marine mammals; securing new funding to rebuild marine fisheries; and boosting funding for national marine sanctuaries more than four-fold. But pressures on our oceans and coasts continue to mount. Nearly half of all new development in the United States occurs along the coast. Rising demand for seafood is driving some species toward extinction. And polluted runoff causes toxic algal blooms, forces beach closures, and threatens marine life and human health.

Establishing New Ocean Conservation Zones. Portions of our coasts and ocean waters are protected in marine sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, and other types of "marine protected areas." There is broad scientific consensus that strengthening and expanding these conservation zones is critical to preserving marine resources and ensuring sustainable economic use of the ocean. To achieve those goals, the President today will sign an Executive Order that:

  • Directs the Departments of Commerce and the Interior to develop a national system of “marine protected areas-- that encompasses diverse marine ecosystems, and includes ecological reserves where fishing, offshore oil drilling and other consumptive uses of marine resources are prohibited.

  • Directs the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a Marine Protected Area Center that will work with the Department of the Interior to develop a national framework for managing this ocean conservation network.

  • Directs the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce pollution of beaches, coasts, and ocean waters by strengthening marine water quality standards, and establishing stronger protections for areas where they may be needed.

Preserving America’s Premier Coral Reefs. Dubbed "rainforests of the sea," coral reefs harbor a remarkable abundance and diversity of marine life. But around the world, corals are in decline, suffering from pollution, overfishing and rising ocean temperatures brought on by global warming. Today, the President will direct the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior to develop a plan within 90 days to permanently protect the coral reefs of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, which represent nearly 70 percent of the coral reefs in U.S. waters. The reefs surrounding this 1200-mile-long string of uninhabited islands support threatened sea turtles, endangered Hawaiian monk seals, and other marine life found nowhere else on Earth. The plan will be developed with public input and in consultation with the state of Hawaii and the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

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