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                             August 7, 2000

Today, in an event on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, President Clinton will sign bipartisan legislation establishing a new high-level commission to recommend policies to promote the protection and sustainable use of America's oceans and coastal resources. The Oceans Act of 2000 builds on the Administration's strong efforts to protect our nation's beaches and coasts, restore fisheries and marine mammals, strengthen coastal economies, and expand undersea exploration. The President also will call on Congress to fully fund his Lands Legacy budget for fiscal year 2001, which proposes record funding to protect our oceans and coasts.

Building a New Consensus for Ocean Protection. Two years ago, President Clinton and Vice President Gore presided over the National Ocean Conference in Monterey, California, which brought together for the first time the full array of ocean interests -- from scientists and conservationists to representatives of government and industry. At the Conference, the President announced new steps to protect coral reefs and rebuild fisheries, and extended through 2012 the moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing off most of America's coast. This year, on Memorial Day weekend, the President signed an Executive Order to strengthen and expand the nation's network of marine protected areas -- the ocean equivalent of our national parks -- and directed the Commerce and Interior departments to develop a plan to permanently protect the rich coral reefs of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. And in June, the President announced the launch of three undersea expeditions and directed the Commerce Secretary to develop a plan for a new era of ocean exploration.

New Strategies to Meet a New Set of Challenges. At the Monterey Conference, the President committed to work with Congress to establish a new commission to help chart a 21st century strategy to restore and protect America's ocean resources. More than 30 years have passed since the Stratton Commission, the first such panel, issued recommendations that laid the foundation for federal oceans policy -- including the establishment of national marine sanctuaries, management of marine fisheries, and creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But pressures on our oceans and coasts continue to mount. Nearly half of all new development in the United States occurs along the coast. Rising demand for seafood is driving some species toward extinction. And polluted runoff causes toxic algae blooms, forces beach closures, and threatens marine life and human health.

The Oceans Act of 2000, whose chief sponsor was Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, aims to meet these and other new challenges by developing broad-based recommendations to strengthen and coordinate federal ocean policy. To take effect January 20, 2001, the Act: