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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 12, 1998


To unravel deep-sea mysteries, discover new opportunities in the ocean, and better understand how to protect marine resources, Vice President Gore is launching a program to map and explore U.S. ocean waters with advanced underwater technology. A proposed $12 million through 2002 will be used to expand two shallow-water observatories, build two new dead-sea observatories, and develop two high-tech "submersibles" to explore exotic sea life.

Oceans cover most of the Earth, yet only five percent of the ocean and sea floor have been explored. Until recently, we knew more about the surface of the moon than the ocean floor. Recent exploration of deep-sea vents, which spew hot water from deep within the Earth, have led to the discovery of life forms never thought possible. And advanced technology now allows researchers to go, and to send unmanned "submersible" vehicles, to greater and greater depths. Dramatic visits to the sunken Titanic offer a glimpse of the exciting discoveries that are now possible.

To protect the oceans, and particularly our marine reserves, we must know more about them, and how human activities affect them. Information gleaned from the sea can also help identify new sources of minerals, life-saving pharmaceuticals and other materials. It also will provide a clearer picture of the oceans' enormous contribution to our economy. The Administration is proposing an additional $4 million a year in fiscal years 2000, 2001 and 2002 to:

Develop two new unmanned deep-sea observatories -- on the Juan de Fuca ridge off the West Coast, and in the Gulf of Mexico -- to monitor unusual life forms.

Expand existing shallow-water observatories -- such as the Leo in New Jersey, and the Aquarius in Florida -- to enable researchers to stay underwater for several days at a stretch to directly observe biological, chemical and physical processes in the ocean.

Develop, in partnership with industry, two state-of-the-art submersibles -- an unmanned undersea vehicle remotely operated from a ship, and a manned self-propelled mini-submarine. These systems will be leased by the government and made available to the scientific community.

Assess the contribution of ocean resources and activities to the nation's economy. A panel of economists, scientists and ocean experts, to be named by the President, will complete the assessment by the year 2000.

Contribute $250,000 a year to support the "Sustainable Seas Expeditions," a public-private partnership spearheaded by the National Geographic Society and the Goldman Foundation to explore undersea life in America's marine sanctuaries.

Strengthening Protection of Our Marine Reserves. The "Sustainable Seas Expeditions" will help complete a comprehensive inventory of biodiversity in America's 12 National Marine Sanctuaries; revise management plans for the sanctuaries by 2002; and develop science-based recommendations for stronger protections, such as the "no-take" zones in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.