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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Press Briefing on Year of the Oceans Conference Washington, D.C.

06/23/1998
Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Press Briefing on Year of the Oceans Conference
Washington, DC

                        June 23, 1998


     Thank you all for coming today.

     At the Year of the Oceans Conference and at our public listening sessions held earlier in
the month, we heard many true and troubling stories about the health of our oceans. The
American people are deeply concerned about this vital resource.  


     Experts warned of marine toxins -- pfiesteria, bacteria, algal blooms, and other dangerous
pathogens. We heard about polluted runoff, oil spills, boating waste, fish kills, unsafe beaches,
declining fisheries, toxics deposited into our waters from the air.


     According to EPA's own figures, today, 40 percent of the coastal waters and estuaries
that have been surveyed do not meet water quality standards. Over the last decade, almost 19,000
closings and health advisories have been issued for the nation's beaches.


     No parent should have to tell their child that the fish is unsafe to eat, that the water is just
too dirty to take a swim. No fisherman, no restaurant owner, no tourist business should have to
worry about polluted water keeping customers away.


     Clean, safe, healthy oceans mean a clean, safe, healthy, and economically vibrant country.

     That is why the President and Vice President convened the Year of the Oceans
Conference, the first-ever federal conference to address the health and safety of our oceans as we
enter the 21st century. The Clinton Administration brought together government experts, business
executives, scientists, environmentalists, citizens, elected officials. We came together to learn
from each other, and to explore the challenges and opportunities we all face as we work to
safeguard our precious oceans.     At the conference, the President and Vice President announced a series of  critical steps to
protect our oceans. These steps -- from building sustainable fisheries to ensuring safe ports to
protecting our coral reefs -- will chart a course for exploring and protecting our last great frontier
-- our ocean environment. These steps include three initiatives to ensure our coastal areas remain
safe and healthy for future generations.


     For the first time ever, EPA is providing on-line access to information about beach
closings and advisories across the nation. And we are providing information about fish
consumption advisories and the health risks of eating fish from polluted waters. With a click of a
computer mouse, people can learn from our "BeachWatch" website if their vacation spot will be
clean this year, if the fish they catch will be safe to eat, or if their coastal community is in danger
from polluted waters.


     The administration is launching a major expansion of our ocean monitoring system -- an
additional $12 million through the year 2002 to place hundreds of monitoring buoys in the North
Atlantic and North Pacific. These will be our eyes and ears in the ocean, to gather critical data
that will help us address the threat of global warming and better predict weather patterns, such as
this past winter's devastating El Nino.


     And we are developing a coordinated strategy to respond to harmful algal blooms.

     These three actions, taken in concert with the President's Clean Water Action Plan to
clean up and restore the nation's waters, create an effective national strategy to clean up and
restore our oceans.


     If you think about it, the entire country is a giant watershed for our oceans. America's vast
network of rivers, lakes, and streams eventually feed into our coastal areas. Thus, if we keep our
inland waterways clean, we keep our oceans clean.


     The Clean Water Action Plan targets today's most serious water quality problems:
polluted runoff, the loss of wetlands, and deteriorating waterways. It commits tools, technical
expertise, and money -- $2.3 billion over five years -- to bring people together to find common-sense, cost-effective solutions. The Clean Water Action plan will clean up and restore our rivers,
lakes, streams, underground aquifers, and estuaries  -- that vast network feeding into our oceans -- and it is a key part of our national oceans protection strategy.


     We heard what people had to say at the Year of the Oceans Conference -- and at our
listening sessions -- and we know that we must do more to explore, protect, and restore our
oceans. What we have heard is our roadmap to develop an even more effective, more targetted
national strategy.


    Above all, we learned at the conference that this is not the time to rest -- that we must
remain vigilant. We heard many challenges, but also many opportunities and now is the time to
act. Everyone must work together so that our children and our children's children will inherit
clean, safe, and healthy oceans.   Thank you.