U.S. Department of the InteriorDOI News Header
June 8, 2007
Contact: Joan Moody

World Oceans Day, June 8, 2007
Secretary Kempthorne, Interior Bureaus
Support National Oceans Month

WASHINGTON, DC--The Department of the Interior and its agencies are observing World Oceans Day today and National Oceans Month throughout June 2007 with a variety of events and ongoing conservation activities around the nation. These activities range from whale studies along the Alaska coast, to preparations for the hurricane season on the East Coast, to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne’s visit to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii.

“I can think of nowhere more symbolic to recognize the importance of National Oceans Month than this place that protects the largest marine conservation area on earth,” Secretary Kempthorne said about the new national monument. He is visiting the Pacific islands this week and next week as part of his responsibilities for Papahānaumokuākea and other parks and refuges as well as for coordination of federal policy for the U.S. territories and insular areas.

Midway, a wildlife refuge and site of the famous World War II battle, is the centerpiece of the new monument, which was created by President Bush in June 2006. The monument encompasses140,000 square miles of ocean, islands, atolls, and coral reefs, making it the largest single area dedicated to conservation in U.S. history. The tropical waters of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument are a sanctuary for 7,000 marine species.

“The Interior Department’s presence in this area highlights our department’s role in protecting special marine resources with both historical and biological significance,” Secretary Kempthorne added. “We are supporting the President’s far-sighted Ocean Action Plan, of which National Oceans Month is just one component.”

In addition to the Secretary’s visit, Interior bureaus are highlighting their ocean activities during June. Through the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Minerals Management Service, the Department manages more than 35,000 miles of coastline. The U.S. Geological Survey, the science arm of Interior, conducts vital research and monitoring, while the Office of Insular Affairs plays a critical role in ocean conservation related to U.S.-affiliated islands.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers 169 island and coastal national wildlife refuges, including the refuge at Midway, and other coastal national wildlife refuges and fisheries programs. FWS continues to work on measures to protect Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument with its co-trustees for the new national monument, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state of Hawaii.

The agency also is holding a series of events celebrating the achievements of the late Rachel Carson, a scientist who began as a FWS employee writing about coastal refuges and went on to write The Sea Around Us (1951), The Edge of the Sea (1956) and Silent Spring (1962) – best-selling books that awakened the general public to the need for oceans conservation.

FWS is reviewing proposals for coastal grants due June 29, as well as implementing the Marine Turtle Conservation Act through grants to support international conservation of sea turtles and their nesting habitats.

National Park Service

The National Park Service manages 34 million acres in 74 coastal parks. With the summer vacation season here, the National Park Service has joined NOAA in alerting beachgoers to the threat of rip currents and how to escape their strong and potentially fatal grip.

“The National Park Service is cosponsoring National Riptide Awareness Week June 3-9 as part of its long partnership with NOAA and its National Weather Service to enhance our ability to provide visitors to national seashores and other areas with the latest information on water safety,” said Mary Bomar, director of the National Park Service. “We are thrilled to partner with NOAA for this important awareness campaign to bring scientific-based information to the public about the dangers of rip currents and safety measures that will save lives in waterways throughout our parks.”

Minerals Management Service

MMS, which regulates energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf, has jurisdiction over approximately 1.8 billion underwater acres and takes an active and leading role in protecting marine resources within the OCS. MMS cosponsored Capitol Hill Oceans Week from June 5-7 in Washington, D.C.

“As the Department of the Interior’s ocean agency, MMS is fully engaged in the new ocean governance structure as outlined in the President’s Ocean Action Plan including its National Oceanographic Partnership Program component, a collaborative effort established by Congress in 1997 to provide leadership and coordination of national oceanographic research and education initiatives,” Acting MMS Director Walter Cruickshank said.

Recent research projects that MMS sponsored or conducted include:
-- Identifying the extent of offshore human activities in the Alaskan Arctic, and their potential effects on marine mammals including annual monitoring of the migration of the Bowhead Whales in the Beaufort Sea, an effort underway for more than two-decades;
-- Investigating the abundance, migrations, and habitats of arctic species such as polar bears and ringed seals and coastal and marine birds such as the king and common eiders;
-- Observing reactions of marine mammals to sound from industrial related activities such as the MMS world-class Sperm Whale Seismic Surveys study, SWSS, in the Gulf of Mexico
-- Conducting archaeological excavations of a historic shipwreck located 4,000 feet under Federal waters 40 miles off the Louisiana coast -- the deepest shipwreck in the world ever to be scientifically excavated for a non-commercial purpose.
--Being the leading agency in investigating newly discovered chemosynthetic communities and deep sea corals in the nation’s deepwater energy frontier, the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
--Developing an entirely new research effort addressing our new responsibilities for alternative Energy and alternative use of energy on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The Outer Continental Lands Act mandates that offshore energy activities be conducted in ways to minimize adverse impacts to living marine resources. .

U.S. Geological Survey

Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey conducts extensive ocean, coastal and Great Lakes scientific research and mapping. USGS is moving forward during National Oceans Month with a pilot phase of the National Water Quality Monitoring Network for U.S. coastal waters and their tributaries. The goal of the network is to provide information about the health of our oceans and coastal ecosystems and inland influences on coastal waters for improved resource management.

USGS coordinated design of the multidisciplinary network by federal, state and local government and private organizations. The pilot phase of the network, in Delaware River Basin, Lake Michigan, and San Francisco Bay, will be completed by January 2008.

USGS has initiated specific actions to prepare for the impending hurricane season that begins in June and runs through October. USGS field staff will implement improved monitoring of conditions on the ground from flooding and storm surge, provide enhanced tools for navigation in disaster zones and develop improved assessments of the effects of hurricanes on coastlines and coastal ecosystems.

Additional USGS plans build on lessons learned when Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans underwater and conventional road maps became almost useless as tools to locate those in distress. “Geoaddressing,” using GPS, satellite, and other remotely obtained geospatial information, proved crucial in search and rescue operations. The USGS has established a Geospatial Information Response Team whose purpose is to ensure streamlined coordination and timely availability of geospatial information for effective Gulf and East coast storm response. Emergency responders, land and resource managers, and scientific analysts all depend on this information.

“As we recognize National Ocean’s Month, it is important to acknowledge the critical role science plays in helping the public and policy makers decide how best to preserve, protect and enhance the bodies of water we depend on and enjoy,” said USGS Director Mark Myers. “The overall goal of the USGS National Coastal Program is to provide the scientific information, knowledge, and tools required to ensure that decisions about land and resource use, management practices, and future development in the coastal zone and adjacent watersheds can be evaluated with a complete understanding of the probable effects on coastal ecosystems and communities, and a full assessment of their vulnerability to natural and human-driven changes.”

Coral Reef and Insular Programs

The Department of the Interior has jurisdiction over 3.6 million acres of coral reef ecosystems and is working this month on measures to increase protection for coral reefs.

In addition, the Department of the Interior co-chairs, with the Department of Commerce, the Coral Reef Task Force. The Task Force includes leaders of 12 federal agencies, several U.S. states and territories, and three freely associated states. The Task Force develops national strategies, targeted initiatives and new partnerships to strengthen stewardship of the coral reef ecosystems in the United States, territories, commonwealths, and internationally.

Other DOI programs, such as the Office of Insular Affairs, which is coordinating the Secretary’s visit to the islands, also play important roles. The Secretary is meeting during the weeks of June 4 and June 11 with the leaders of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Secretary’s visit also includes American Memorial Park in Saipan, a unit of the National Park System; the War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam; Ritidian Point National Wildlife Refuge in Guam; and Utulei Beach National Park in Samoa.


In December 2004, President Bush released the U.S. Ocean Action Plan and created a Cabinet-level Committee on Ocean Policy to strengthen and better coordinate the federal government’s efforts to make our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes cleaner, healthier, and more productive. The Department of the Interior and our federal, state and local partners are working to advance our understanding and enhance the use and conservation of oceans and coasts.

The plan contained 88 actions with corresponding commitments for each action. As of June 2007, the Administration has met almost 90 percent of the Ocean Action Plan’s commitments for the majority of actions, the others are proceeding on schedule and a number of new commitments and activities have been added to provide more protection.

In June 2006, the President created the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, the largest single area of conservation in our nation’s history and the largest marine conservation area in the world.

Earlier this year, the President signed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act that governs fishery management activities in federal waters and establishes a firm deadline to end overfishing. It also increases use of market-based management tools, creates a national saltwater angler registry and emphasizes an ecosystem approach to management.

Efforts to improve federal-regional planning have included the formation of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Both are examples of cooperative partnerships called for in the Ocean Action Plan and involving the leadership of states, localities and tribes as well as international agencies from Canada and Mexico.

As planned, scientists and policymakers completed the first-ever Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy earlier this year to provide a portfolio of vital research for the next decade as well as critical near-term priorities.
For more information on ocean programs, see http://ocean.ceq.gov/

More information on National Oceans Month activities can be found at:

On May 30, 2007, President Bush designated June 2007 as National Oceans Month. For the President’s proclamation, see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070531-6.html

Created in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, World Oceans Day on June 8 is observed in many places around the world.

— DOI —