The House Oceans Caucus (HOC) was formed 16 years ago to create a bipartisan voice within Congress on ocean issues. Representative Sam Farr from California and Representative Don Young from Alaska are the 114th Congressional co-chairs. The goal of the HOC is to build awareness, exchange information and ideas, and explore important issues related to the oceans.
Together, the co-chairs represent diverse ocean and Great Lakes environments and interests and work together to disseminate timely and relevant information to the 67 bipartisan members of the HOC. This year, the HOC has sponsored a symposium showcasing an impressive group of innovative businesses developing alternatives to plastics, and thus reducing the plastic debris that makes it into our waterways and oceans. Throughout the 114th Congress, we plan on highlighting many pertinent ocean issues, such as ocean acidification, marine debris, upgrading the integrated ocean observing system to provide essential ocean data to coastal communities and the fishing industry, and implementation of electronic monitoring systems into fisheries management. All of these topics are critical to growing our blue economy in an effective and sustainable manner. In past years, the HOC sponsored a series of briefings on topics including coral reef conservation, the Magnuson Stevens Act, and how the oceans relate to human health.
While it may be easy to assume that the borders of the United States end at the shoreline, we in fact have jurisdiction over the ocean and its resources for 200 nautical miles. This area, our exclusive economic zone, spans 3.4 million square nautical miles and is not only the largest in the world but nearly 1.3 times larger than our terrestrial landmass. Not surprisingly, the ocean is one of our greatest natural resources and serves as the foundation for our nation's security, commerce, culture and recreation. For example, the ocean-dependent economy employed 2.9 million people and contributed $343 billion dollars to the US GDP in 2012. Further, our nation's coastal states account for 81% of our population, 83% of our output, and more than three quarters of our national growth in terms of population, employment and GDP (data from the National Ocean Economics Program).
These statistics underscore the importance of ensuring that our oceans remain a part of policy discussions in Congress, and this is the goal of the House Oceans Caucus.
Sam Farr (D-CA) and Don Young (R–AK)
House Oceans Caucus