Tuesday, September 20, 2011

U.S. Senate Ocean Caucus: group formed to weigh pressing ocean management issues

How does one get 100 senators and 435 representatives to agree on anything? Well, judging by today's standards, it would appear to be an impossibility. But one method is the senate caucus - a group of senators that discuss the most pressing issues regarding a particular topic, trying to move forward on proposed legislation with a unified, bipartisan voice.

The Senate Ocean Caucus has been forming, its latest permutation consisting of 19 senators, co-chaired by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

As reported in the Cape Cod Times,
"Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Scott Brown, R-Mass., and 17 other senators founded the Senate ocean caucus last week to collaborate on federal ocean management and protection policies. The caucus also plans to educate congressional members and staff on ocean and coastal policies and scientific research.

'The ocean caucus will help focus attention on ... laws that govern the seas, affect jobs and vital industries, concern our marine ecosystems and protect our waters off Massachusetts,' Kerry said."

David Helvarg's Blue Frontier Campaign has been watching this group closely (At the Blue Frontier Campaign's Blue Vision Summit in May, I had an opportunity to hear Sen. Whitehouse speak cautiously but optimistically about the caucus) and David had this to say,

"Senator Whitehouse said the caucus will focus on 'the role of the ocean economy, ecosystems functions and the need for more research.' Hopefully it can also help save ocean agencies and programs from having their budgets slashed by the House and that other body, oh yeah, the Senate. From what was said, it sounds like the caucus will begin working around issues involving the melting Arctic, the Law of the Seas treaty that the Senate has yet to ratify (30 years and counting), and ocean conservation. It’s a truly hopeful sign in a generally less than hopeful town."

With a Senate Ocean Caucus - there is also a House version, too - ocean conservation organizations and citizens as a whole will have a focal point toward which they can direct their concerns and watch what is being considered, debated, and acted upon in Washington. As dysfunctional as our government currently is, we still need those lightning rods where we can direct our energy towards getting government to seriously consider the long-term consequences of ineffective conservation and natural resource management.

Read the Blue Frontier Campaign's latest newsletter.
Read about the Senate Ocean caucus in the Cape Cod Times.

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