|To all Oregonians:
Throughout this pandemic, I’ve been in touch people who fish for a living up and down our coast about the challenges their businesses are facing. I’m grateful to Oregon’s coastal communities for all of the insights they’ve shared with me this year. They’ve fueled my efforts to push congressional leaders to successfully include emergency assistance for our fishing sector in coronavirus relief legislation, and inspired my request that the Government Accountability Office study ways that the federal government can purchase more seafood products.
Our oceans and fisheries are already feeling the effects of carbon pollution and climate change. Marine waters are getting more acidic — reducing the ability of organisms like oysters to form shells. Changes in temperature and ocean currents have shifted where some fish live and feed.
The vitality of this industry is going to rely on our ability to safeguard our coastal ecosystems through conservation and restoration, and to take steps to reduce carbon pollution driving our changing climate in the first place. And the good news is, if we go about it the right way, we can use those climate actions as an opportunity to create jobs and build an even stronger fishing industry.
That’s why I’m introducing the Ocean Climate Emergency Action Now (OCEAN) Act of 2020. First, this legislation would invest in the blue economy and climate-ready fisheries by establishing a Caught in the U.S.A. program to support domestic fisheries with grants that promote local and climate-friendly seafood consumption; creating a Climate and Fisheries Research and Management Program to develop strategies to improve fisheries management to meet the challenges posed by climate chaos; and establishing an Ocean Aquaculture Research and Policy Program at the Department of Commerce to prioritize restorative ocean aquaculture focused on shellfish and seaweed farming.
The bill would also address the immediate impacts of climate change by investing in ocean health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting safe blue carbon storage. We can accomplish those goals by advancing our understanding of ocean acidification; reducing greenhouse gas pollution from the seafood supply chain; and investing in the restoration of blue carbon ecosystems like wetlands, sea grasses, and mangroves.
Lastly, the OCEAN Act of 2020 would promote coastal resiliency and improve ocean protections by authorizing $3 billion for restoration grants for coastlines and fisheries, providing grants for coastal and estuary resiliency programs, and supporting state-led regional ocean partnerships to coordinate interstate coastal management, increase data accessibility, and prioritize the needs of coastal communities.
Our fishing industry is vital to our coastal communities — and I’m going to keep doing everything I can to make sure our fishing communities make it through this pandemic and overcome the mounting challenges of climate chaos.
All my best,