President Clinton Addresses Ocean Conference

Office of the Press Secretary
(Monterey, California)

For Immediate Release June 12, 1998


San Carlos Park
Monterey, California

1:30 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you for the wonderfulwelcome. Let me begin by saying how great it was to see and hear theWatsonville Marching Band again and my good friends there. You're alwayswelcome back at the White House. And I like those uniforms. I liked themthen and I like them now. (Applause.)

I want to thank Secretary Daley and Secretary Dalton for sponsoringthis conference. I thank Secretary Slater and Secretary Babbitt, who washere; Administrator Browner, Dr. Baker, Katie McGinty. And I'd also liketo say a special word of appreciation to the Commandant of the Coast Guardand all the Coast Guard personnel, and the Vice Chief of Naval Operationsand all the Navy personnel for what they have done to help this be asuccess. (Applause.)

I thank all the members of Congress. The Vice President hasintroduced them, but I am delighted to see them here and I'm very proud ofthem. I thank the Mayor of Monterey and all the state and city and countyofficials who are here. And I also want to say, it's good to see our oldfriend, citizen Panetta here. (Laughter.) Leon and Sylvia have earned theright to come home, and after spending the day here, I don't know why theyever left. (Laughter.) But I'm very grateful that they did. He made us abetter administration.

Let me say a special word of appreciation to the award winners heretoday -- my good friend, Ted Danson, the President of American OceansCampaign -- (applause.) Thank you. He has to go to a middle schoolgraduation, but I think he may still be here. Dr. Sylvia Earle, ofNational Geographic; Jean-Michel Cousteau; Bob Talbot; and Moss LandingMarine Lab. Thank you all for your wonderful work and congratulations onyour awards. (Applause.)

I owe a lot of whatever good we have been able to do in this positionon the environment to my wife, who has always cared about this and expandedmy horizons, and to the Vice President. I was sitting there listening tohim talk and my mind wandered back -- no offense, Mr. Vice President, I wasgripped by your speech. (Laughter.) But my mind wandered back to theconversation we had when I asked him if he would join me on the ticket in

And I was remembering that, fittingly enough, when I called him to askif he would come talk to me, he was at Rio, at the wonderful conferencethere on climate change and biodiversity. And I was thinking howinfluenced I had been already by his writings and his speeches. Eventhough we were neighbors, we didn't know each other particularly well. Iknew him more through his work and the stands that he had taken. And Ihave to tell you, I was thinking again today as he stood up here today,that's one of the two or three best decisions I ever made in my life.(Applause.)

Sometimes, I think Presidents like to pretend their jobs are morespecial and unique, and their insights more impenetrable by others thanthey may be. But I'll tell you, there is one subject on which I thinkperhaps only Presidents can really know the truth. And I can tell you thatthe scope, the depth, and the quality of the influence in a positive waythat Al Gore has exercised on this country in the last five and half yearsliterally dwarfs that of any other Vice President in the history of theUnited States. And I am very proud of what he has done. (Applause.)

Now, I thought Sylvia Earle made a very interesting presentation, andnow I understand that why when she was the Chief Scientist at NOAA hefriends called her the United States Sturgeon General. (Laughter.) I hadnever thought about the idea that there are more fish than people in mydomain. (Laughter.) Now that I know it, I'm trying to figure out some waythey can be represented in the Congress. (Laughter and applause.) That'sno offense to those folks over there. They just need a little more help.(Laughter.)

I also want to say hello to Tony Coehlo and all the people watching usfrom the United States Pavilion and Expo '98 in Portugal. It is aremarkable coincidence and a wonderful thing that the World's Fair thisyear is dedicated to the preservation of the oceans.

I first came to Monterey in 1971 in the summertime. And again, I owemy introduction to Monterey indirectly to my wife because she was thenworking in Northern California, and I was home in Arkansas, and I drove outhere to see her. And I drove across the desert, and it was hot. Andbelieve me, when I got here I was happy. (Laughter.) But I had alwaysbeen entranced by this community, ever since I first saw it.

Monterey's favorite son, John Steinbeck, as all of you know, was aserious student of the seas. In his masterful account of the 4,000-milemarine expedition he launched, just about a half mile from here, he summedup what for me is at the root of the work done at this conference -- theunderstanding that man is related to the whole, inextricably related to allreality. Our abiding links to the world, to nature, and the oceans, ourmystic and mysterious seas, has led us to this historic conference.

We come to Monterey, all of us, with an appreciation for the divinebeauty of this patch of coast which Al and I had a chance to see a littlemore of today with two bright young people, who showed us the harbor seals,and the sea otters, and some of the smaller life there. That's good. Butwe have to leave with a renewed determination to maintain the living,thriving seas beyond, not only for Americans, but for the whole world.

When astronomers study the heavens for life, what do they look for?Water -- the single, non-negotiable ingredient. Our planet is blessed withenormous sources of water. Our oceans are the key to the life supportsystem for all creatures on this planet, from the giant tube worms in deepsea vents, to cactuses in the most arid deserts.

In our daily lives, the oceans play a crucial role. They can driveour climate and our weather. El Nino taught us all about that and madepeople in Northern California wonder if the sun would ever come back for awhile. They allow us global mobility for our armed forces. The fish fromthe sea are among the most important staples in our diet. And, as the VicePresident has just said, through fishing, shipping, and tourism, the oceanssustain one in six American jobs.

These oceans are so vast and powerful that I think most people stillblithely assume that nothing we do can affect them very much. Indeed, thatassumption has made its way into our common vernacular. How many timeshave you said in your life that something you did was a mere drop in theocean? Well, now we know, and as many of you have highlighted over thelast day and half, something you do may be a mere drop in the ocean. Butmillions, even billions, of those drops in the oceans can have a profoundeffect on them and on us.

Two-thirds of the world's people live within 50 miles of a coast. Toomuch pollution from the land runs straight to the sea. One large city canspew more than nine million gallons of petroleum products into the oceanevery year. That's roughly the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez.Polluted run-off from watersheds has led to deadly red tides, brown tides,and pfiesteria. Run-off from thousands of miles up the Mississippi Riverhas been so severe that now there is a dead zone the size of the state ofNew Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ten percent of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed, another 30percent will all but disappear within 20 years. We have not learnedeverywhere the lessons of Cannery Row. For more than two-thirds of theworld's fisheries are over-exploited, more than a third in a state ofdecline.

As the Vice President highlighted at the White House earlier thisweek, we are also changing the temperature of the seas, something else theyoung people told me they had measured here. We've just learned that ouroceans are the warmest they've been in 104 years. That's as long as we'vebeen taking their temperature. It must be longer, since we now know thatthe five hottest years since 1400 have all occurred in the 1990s, and ifthe first five months are any indication, this will be the hottest yearever measured.

We know that greenhouse gases are heating our planet and our oceans.Fortunately, we have learned that, along with the ability to harm, we alsohave the ability to heal. Through innovation and prudence, we've proved wecan clean the water, the air, protect marine sanctuaries and wildliferefuges, phase out deadly pesticides and ozone-eating chemicals, and do itwhile still producing the world's strongest, most competitive economy.

With partnerships and persistence, we must extend this record ofsuccess to our oceans. If we want our children to inherit the gift ofliving oceans, we must make the 21st century a great century of stewardshipof our seas.

Today I propose to intensify our efforts with a $224 millioninitiative to enhance the health of our oceans while expanding oceanopportunities in responsible ways for the environment. (Applause.)

First, it is clear we must save these shores from oil drilling.(Applause.) Here in California, you know all too well how oil spills fromoff-shore drilling can spoil our coasts, causing not just the death ofmarine life, but the destruction of fragile ecosystems. Also, economicdevastation -- in tourism, recreation, and fishing. Even under the best ofcircumstances, is it really worth the risk?

In a few moments, I will sign a directive to extend the nation'smoratorium on off-shore leasing for an additional 10 years, whileprotecting our marine sanctuaries from drilling forever. (Applause.)Thank you.

As I do this, I want to say a special word of thanks to SenatorBarbara Boxer, who has lobbied me relentlessly for years -- (laughter) --who tracks me down every chance she gets, who has even used her grandson,who is my nephew as an emotional wedge to make sure I do the right thing onthis issue. (Laughter.) And I thank her for it. (Applause.)

I'd also like to thank Sam Farr for his leadership in this conferenceand on this issue; Congresswoman Capps and all the other members of theCalifornia delegation who have expressed their opinion so clearly; and mygood friend Lt. Governor Davis, who has talked to me about this personally.(Applause.)

Now, by standing firm against off-shore oil drilling here inCalifornia and around the nation, these people have helped to protect themost beautiful shores anywhere in the world, and we can continue to dothat.

Second, we must do more to restore precious marine resources. To helpcreate sustainable fisheries, we will help to rebuild fish stocks within 10years, work with industry to develop new technologies to net only targetedspecies of fish, ban the sale and import of under-sized Atlantic swordfishand protect essential fish habitats. (Applause.)

To protect and restore coral reefs, I have signed an executive orderto speed our efforts to map and monitor our reefs, research causes of theirdegradation, revive damaged reefs, and promote worldwide efforts to do thesame. (Applause.) To reduce land-based pollution that threatens marinelife, which is a horrible problem, I have got to have some help from theCongress. So again, I ask the Congress to fund my $2.3 billion Clean WaterAction Plan to reduce the diffused pollution that has been running into ourstreams and oceans unchecked. (Applause.)

Third, we must deepen our understanding of the seas. As the VicePresident announced yesterday and mentioned again today, the United Statesmilitary will release previously classified data to help researchers trackmarine mammals, predict deadly storms, detect illegal fishing, and gain newinsights into the complexities of climate change.

By the year 2000, we will complete an advanced ocean monitoring systemthat will also provide data for climate change studies. And as DoctorEarle said, we must do more to explore the ocean depths. We propose toprovide new submersibles and other advanced tools for mapping and exploringthe world's last, great frontier. I'd kind of like to go down there myselfsomeday. (Applause.)

Fourth, we must create sustainable ports for the 21st century.International trade will nearly triple over the next two decades, and morethan 90 percent of this trade will move by ocean. I propose a new HarborServices Fund to help our ports and harbors remain competitive in the newcentury, by deepening them for the newest and largest ships, and byproviding state-of-the-art navigation tools for preventing marineaccidents. We must do both. (Applause.)

Just last week, I released -- or pledged some extra money to the NewYork-New Jersey Harbor Project in the face of clear evidence that if we donot do it, the harbor will not remain competitive and thousands of Americanjobs could be lost. We can do this and make those harbors environmentallysafer at the same time.

Fifth, we must join the rest of the world in ratifying, at long last,the Convention on the Law of the Sea. (Applause.) The character of ourcountry, and, frankly, the nature of a lot of the economic and politicalsuccess we have enjoyed around the world has rested in no small part on ourcontinuous championing of the rule of law at home and abroad. The historicConvention on the Law of the Sea extends the rule of law to the world'soceans.

There is not a scientist here in any discipline who seriously believesthat we will ever turn the tide on these dangerous trends until we have auniform legal system that can provide a framework necessary to give us aglobal approach to this problem. This convention assures the open seawaysthat our Armed Forces and our fishing telecommunications and shippingindustries require. But it also, I will say again, gives us the frameworkto save the oceans while we grow as a people and while we groweconomically.

This year, during this legislative session, the United States Senateshould, and must, confirm its leadership role by making America a part ofthe community of nations already party to the Convention on the Law of theSea.

Finally, we must continue the critical dialogue that has begun at thisconference and build together across party, regional, economic and otherinterests, a comprehensive oceans agenda for the 21st century. (Applause.)Like every other great leap forward in environmentalism in the last 35years, if we're going to do this right, we're going to have to do ittogether. We have to make this an American issue that transcends party andother philosophical differences that is at the core of our own humanity andour obligation to our children and our grandchildren.

Today, I am directing my Cabinet to report back to me one year fromtoday with recommendations for a coordinated, disciplined, long-termfederal oceans policy. And I want to work with the Congress to create anoceans commission so that all the interests that have been represented herewill have a voice on a permanent, ongoing basis as we forge a new strategyto preserve the incomparable natural resources of our oceans and seas. AndI hope you will help me get that done. (Applause.)

During the marine expedition in the Gulf of Mexico, which I mentionedat the beginning of my remarks, John Steinbeck called hope, the idea thattomorrow can be better than today, the defining human trait. Now, justabout every American knows that I believe that. And I've been readingSteinbeck for most of my life. I didn't know about that until I began toprepare for this conference. In spite of the fact that I agree with that,I think it's important to point out that we are also blessed as a specieswith two other crucial traits which make hope possible: creativity andimagination.

All of these traits -- hope, creativity, imagination -- will berequired to meet the challenges that we face with our oceans. But theyare, after all, the traits that first enabled and inspired explorers totake to the sea. They are traits that allowed us to look at ourinextricable ties to our environment and invent new ways to protect ournatural wonders from harm in the last three decades.

In the 21st century, these traits -- hope, creativity, imagination --they must lead us to preserve our living oceans as a sacred legacy for alltime to come. You can make it happen.

Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)

What's New - June 1998

National Ocean Conference

Equal Pay Act

Family Re-Union Conference

Portland State University Commencement

Ocean Conference

South Asia

Thurston High School Remarks

National Ocean Conference

Presidential Scholars

Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act

ISTEA Legislation

SAVER Summit

Speaks to DLC

National Ocean Conference, Plenary Session

New Efforts to Protect Our Oceans

The Opening of the Thoreau Institute

Oceans Announcements

Fight Against Drugs

Welcoming Ceremony in Xian, China

Korean President Kim Dae Jung

Roundtable Discussion in Xiahe, China

President Kim of South Korea

Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act

21st Century Community Learning Grants

Pritzker Awards Dinner

Nominations of Bill Richardson and Richard Holbrooke

Remarks to Religious Leaders

Family Re-Union Media Advisory

Meeting With Economic Advisors

Conference Address

A Fair, Accurate Census

New Data On Teen Smoking

Roundtable Discussion Remarks

Landmark Agricultural Bill

Conference Remarks

Denver Broncos, Super Bowl Champions

Family Re-Union Press Release

U.S.-China Relations in the 21st Century

Roundtable Discussion in Shanghai, China.

MIT Commencement Address

Commencement Address to MIT Graduates

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