NOAA 2000-419
Contact: Connie Barclay


U.S. Secretary of Commerce Norman Y. Mineta today called on Congress to join the Administration in an historic endeavor to protect our oceans for future generations. During a visit to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Secretary Mineta urged Congress to fully fund President Clinton's request for oceans programs and pass important new legislation that will enable states and local communities to join the effort.

"Our coastal regions and ocean resources are under increasing pressures. That is why I have made one of my top priorities to support new efforts to protect and sustain our ocean resources. My former colleagues on Capitol Hill can join our effort by fully funding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budget request including the President's Lands Legacy Initiative which funds new ocean and costal programs."

During his sanctuary visit, Secretary Mineta also announced $2.5 million in grants to help save our vulnerable coral reefs from harmful environmental changes. He and NOAA Administrator D. James Baker joined a group of school children participating in the Coral Reef Classroom as they worked underwater with scientists to repair damaged coral reefs. The hands-on classroom, sponsored by the National Geographic and NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is part of the Sustainable Seas Expedition, a groundbreaking partnership between the National Geographic and NOAA to explore our vast oceans.

"The rapid decline of the world's productive and economically vital coral reefs represents a serious threat to consumers, businesses, communities and the environment," said Secretary Mineta. He stressed the importance of protecting coral reefs and all of our oceans. "We all benefit from healthy oceans. They are the foundation for millions of jobs, billions of dollars and sustainable coastal communities. We must invest in protecting them."

Another important piece of the administration's ocean initiative is the $3 billion Conservation and Reinvestment Act which would provide funding to state and federal agencies to protect land and water resources, including coral reefs and oceans. State, local and federal partnerships are essential. "The Senate has failed to pass CARA which has already been approved by the House. We need the Senate to pass this bill now if we are going to save our oceans and the communities which depend on them."

The $2.5 million NOAA grants will go to seven U.S. states and territories to launch new research and monitoring programs to understand the causes of reef declines and to track coral reef health. According to NOAA Administrator D. James Baker, this is an important step in the plan to implement the first ever National Action Plan for Coral Reef Conservation. Baker said, "this is just one example of NOAA's effort to better explore, protect and sustain vital ocean and coastal habitat. We need to educate all Americans about the importance of oceans and inspire them to join us in promoting a new ocean ethic."