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November 2, 2007
Contact: Joan Moody
(202) 208-6416

Secretary Kempthorne Joins Mrs. Laura Bush and Other Dignitaries to Announce Administration's Marine Debris Initiative

Last Friday Secretary Kempthorne joined Mrs. Laura Bush and other dignitaries to announce the Administration's Marine Debris Initiative.  DOI Photo: Tami Heilemann
Last Friday Secretary Kempthorne joined Mrs. Laura Bush and other dignitaries to announce the Administration's Marine Debris Initiative. DOI Photo: Tami Heilemann Hi-Res.

(OCEAN SPRINGS, MISS.) -- In a ceremony today at the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center-Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Mississippi, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne joined Mrs. Laura Bush in designating the center as the 21st Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center in the nation.

Located in Oceans Springs, Miss., the laboratory is part of the University of Mississippi. Other dignitaries included Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

"The Administration is firmly committed to ocean and coastal issues," said Secretary Kempthorne. "The Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center network connects with more than 25 million people each year, educating them about the function and value of coastal resources." Mrs.Bush and Secretary Kempthorne also used the occasion to announce new Administration actions on marine debris. A factsheet on the marine debris initiative follows .

Secretary Kempthorne pointed out the importance of a grant for monitoring of debris at Midway Atoll in the new Papahānaumokuākea M arine National Monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.

"The pollution at Midway Island comes from all of us. We don't have to go to the Pacific to help, just as others don't need to come to the Gulf to help control marine debris in this region," Kempthorne said. "Litter from our neighborhoods travels by stream and by river to the ocean and from there, currents carry it around the world."

Through Coastal America and other partnership vehicles, the Interior Department works cooperatively with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard and various Department of Defense agencies to promote coastal education.

Today Coastal America is launching a year-long series of events at its Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers to educate teachers, students and the public about marine debris. Five Coastal Environmental Learning Centers are establishing pilot ocean kiosks in partnership with NOAA and the Smithsonian and linking these kiosks to the web and to the Ocean Hall opening at the Museum of Natural History in September 2008.

Council on Environmental Quality Executive Office of the President

On Friday, November 2, Mrs. Laura Bush visited Biloxi, Mississippi to announce a new Marine Debris Initiative, and to designate the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center as a Coastal America Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC). President Bush recognizes the importance of the oceans to our national heritage, economy, and security, and reaffirms our commitment to protecting them through wise stewardship and sensible management.

  • Our Duty Is To Use The Land and Seas Responsibly. Americans are united in the belief we must preserve our natural heritage and safeguard the environment around us for future generations.

Expanding Our Efforts To Reduce Marine Debris Through a New Marine Debris Initiative
Marine debris, including derelict fishing gear and other discarded materials, continue to affect our marine ecosystems and the living resources that inhabit them. An estimated 6.4 million tons of marine debris litters the world's oceans and coasts, and it continues to harm our marine environment, natural resources, public safety, and economy. While some progress has been made in cleaning up the debris, further efforts are needed to prevent, reduce and remove these pollutants. The Administration is furthering our commitment by:

  • Increasing Public Education and Awareness through the launch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Marine Debris Web Education Campaign, educational events at Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers, including interactive exhibits on regionally important priorities by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at Gulf of Mexico centers, an informative ocean kiosk at the Smithsonian, coordinated outreach events on Earth Day 2008, and additional Public Service Announcements.

  • Working with Regional and Local Partners to clean up marine debris, turn debris into energy, recover lost fishing gear, and recycle fishing lines. This includes:
    • a $200,000 grant provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Dow Chemical Company, NOAA, and Fish and Wildlife Service for the Midway Atoll Marine Debris Coastal Monitoring Project,

    • expansion of the Nets-to-Energy project to the Atlantic coast, beginning in New England,

    • and nationwide expansion of the monofilament recycling program.
  • Leading the Global Effort by working with international organizations to prevent fishing gear from becoming lost, develop environmentally friendly fishing gear, and promote the annual International Coastal Cleanup in 100 countries around the world.

Promoting Ocean Literacy To Educate and Involve The Public In Protecting Our Nation's Coastal Ecosystems
Successful ocean stewardship and conservation depend on an informed public. Mrs. Bush will designate the J.L Scott Marine Education Center as a Coastal America Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center. This will establish the 21 st partnership between the federal government and a marine education center.

Today's Action Will Advance The Administration's Efforts On Cooperative Conservation

  • In February, the President released his 2008 Budget, which included a $143 million Oceans Initiative to support the Ocean Action Plan priorities. The Oceans Initiative provided $38 million to protect and restore coastal and marine areas, including $8 mill ion for the Papâhanaumokuâkea Marine National Monument; $25 million to end over-fishing and ensure sustainable use of ocean resources, including $6 million to implement Limited Access Privilege Programs; and $80 million to advance ocean science and researc h.

  • In January, the President signed the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. This legislation has set a deadline to end over-fishing in America, which occurs when we catch fish from a species at a rate faster than they are reproducing, by 2011, and has authorized "limited access privilege programs" to set market-based incentives to help replenish our fish stocks. In 2005 the President set a goal to double the number of these programs by 2010, and we are on target to meet that goal.

  • In December 2006, the President signed the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act. This legislation authorizes the identification, reduction, and prevention of marine debris and its adverse impacts on the marine environment and navigation safety through increased observations and assessments to identify the origin, location, and projected movement of marine debris within our waters and development of strategies to prevent and remove marine debris. The Act specifically targets fishing gear as a threat to the marine environment and navigation safety.

  • In October 2006, the President directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in consultation with Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, to strengthen efforts to protect sustainable fisheries and call for an end to destructive fishing practices, such as unregulated bottom trawling on the high seas. The President emphasized that it remains United States policy to support protection and use of sustainable fisheries as a food source and to meet the needs of commercial and recreational fishing.

  • In June 2006 , the President established the Papâhanaumokuâkea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This action created the largest conservation area in the history of our Nation, and the largest protected marine area in the world.

  • In 2004, the President released his Ocean Action Plan to promote responsible use and stewardship of our ocean and coastal resources. The plan focused on making our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes cleaner, healthier, and more productive. The President directed EPA and NOAA to co-chair an Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee that ensures the coordination of federal agency marine debris activities both in the U.S. and internationally.

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