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The National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO)

Our oceans face many challenges that arise from human use and extraction of ocean resources. Fortunately, there are ocean champions in the Senate who are taking action to ensure that these activities establish the capacity to protect and restore the ocean ecosystems they’re affecting.

On May 12, 2011, Senate ocean champions Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced the National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO) to establish the first annual fund for ocean conservation and restoration. This strong piece of bipartisan legislation was also cosponsored by a number of influential Senators, including ocean champion Bill Nelson (D-FL), Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

The National Endowment for the Oceans would be sourced through existing cash flows that come from activities that use ocean resources, such as offshore energy production (oil, natural gas and renewables), fines for violations of federal law in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, and interest from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. This ensures that the activities that impact ocean health will drive reinvestment in conservation and restoration. Specific activities that could be funded include (but are not limited to) restoration of wetlands, coral reefs and watersheds, conservation of coastal areas through land acquisition, conservation of critical marine species, observation and research of ocean ecosystems, and planning for sustainable ocean management.

As Senator Whitehouse noted, “This legislation will help protect our oceans and coasts, and the natural resources they provide, so that they may continue to support jobs for generations to come.”

Senator Snowe added, “The National Endowment for the Oceans would help fulfill our responsibility to preserve the vitality of the critical ecosystem it supports.”

Ocean Champions is working closely with our friends in the Senate to help advance this important bill. In September, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed it as part of the Gulf Restore Act. It still must pass the Senate Commerce Committee before it will be ready for floor action, and a similar measure must be initiated in the House. You can make your voice of support heard by becoming a “Citizen Cosponsor” by following this link to Senator Whitehouse’s petition.