On an early morning walk around Juneau, I saw a bustling waterfront — a harbor full of small fishing boats, a large cruise ship in the distance, locals walking their dogs, and businesses ready to welcome the many tourists visiting Southeast. It was a great walk to reflect on how important the ocean is to us all.
Recently, folks from across America — including Alaska — traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in Capitol Hill Oceans Week (CHOW), an annual gathering of government leaders, industry stakeholders, innovators, scientists, and conservationists to discuss the health of our oceans, sustainable fisheries, a strong blue economy, and confronting the increasingly-severe impacts of climate change.
Alaska feels the impacts of climate change more acutely than any other state. As we continue to experience those changes firsthand, it is more important than ever that America’s policymakers prioritize lasting solutions that meet the moment.
In tandem with CHOW, I reintroduced several pieces of legislation aimed at sparking innovations in the blue economy, building lasting solutions to addressing ocean acidification, and supporting both conservation and our veterans at the same time.
The Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act will help us better understand the impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems — including crabs, shellfish, and fish populations which are vital to our economy and workforce, and the livelihoods of so many Alaskan families as well as Alaska Native culture. By ensuring coordination and collaboration between federal, state, local and tribal entities on ocean acidification research and monitoring, we can help adapt to changes in the ocean and promote more sustainable ocean and coastal management practices.
The Ocean Regional Opportunity and Innovation (Ocean ROI) Act will establish regional “Ocean Innovation Clusters” to facilitate collaboration between private, public, and academic stakeholders to promote and enhance the maritime industry and blue economy. The AFDF Startup Accelerator — Alaska’s very own blue economy innovation hub — brings the ocean cluster idea to life and embodies the innovation and collaboration we need to take on the daunting challenges ahead of us.
The Don Young Veterans Advancing Conservation Act, named for our late congressman in recognition of the work he did on this measure, and for his dedication to supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and veterans, will hire, retrain, and redeploy our veterans to conduct coastal and underwater conservation missions. This helps our veterans and supports healthier ocean ecosystems.
These bipartisan bills are a step in the right direction. Ensuring the sustainability of our oceans for generations to come and will require a multifaceted approach from stakeholders working together at the local, state, and federal level.
While Juneau has seen major changes since my grandparents lived there 100 years ago, the community’s reliance on the ocean is the same — as are all of our coastal communities. It’s up to us as leaders to ensure that all coastal communities in Alaska continue to thrive for the next 100 years and beyond.
Lisa Murkowski represents Alaska in the U.S. Senate.