May 20, 2019
Oceans, Policy And The Economy Intersect at Capitol Hill Ocean Week
News Source: Forbes
Author(s): Linh Anh Cat
We are all fundamentally connected to the health of the ocean. The ocean provides food, fuel and other resources. In return, what humans put into any watershed affects the ocean. The fertilizer we use to grow food crops and support the economy in the center of the U.S. always finds its way washed out to the ocean. This leads to harmful algal blooms and dead zones that kill fish populations.
These feedbacks between humans and the ocean are covered in Capitol Hill Ocean Week. Over the course of the two-day conference, Capitol Hill Ocean Week brings policymakers, scientists, and other experts into the same room as the general public. The event is held in Washington, D.C. shortly before World Oceans Day (June 8), from June 4-5. Capitol Hill Ocean Week is run by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, headed by CEO Kris Sarri.
Sarri, who remembers attending her first Capitol Hill Ocean Week in 2006, says the conference started as meeting in a small room on the Hill. Now, over 900 people attend Capitol Hill Ocean Week, held in the conference area of the Ronald Reagan Building. Even more people livestream the conference. Sarri is especially proud that the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is committed to offering an open conference:
"If you can come to D.C., you can come to the conference. It's open to the public, it's free to the public. And you can engage in discussions with senior scientists, policymakers, members of the administration."
To put this in perspective, many ocean conferences take place internationally and access is limited exclusively to scientists. Capitol Hill Ocean Week is an opportunity for the public not only to spend two days listening and engaging, but to leave with a better understanding of how everyone, even those inland, are connected to the ocean. At the conference, each session touches on what the audience can do to help with the issue being discussed, whether it's the seafood deficit or air quality in port cities, and what difference audience members can make after they leave the conference.
The conference is always attended by policymakers. Last year, Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii spoke on a panel. Senator Schatz is one of the strongest supporters of the ocean in Congress and is on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Previously, administrators from NOAA speak on current issues they are prioritizing.
It's a chance for the public, as well as researchers, businesses, and other stakeholders to gather and discuss the future of our oceans from many different perspectives. Capitol Hill Ocean Week is the only gathering of its kind.
How can the public engage with Capitol Hill Ocean Week? Attend. Registration is free and closes online on May 24. On-site registration is also available on June 4 and 5 at Capitol Hill Ocean Week. Accessibility and openness to the public is a hallmark of Capitol Hill Ocean Week. If you don't live near Washington, D.C. or can't make it, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation will also livestream the event on their Facebook page and website. The plenary track is Grand Challenges Facing the Ocean and Great Lakes.
Other (non-streamable) tracks include Conserving Wildlife, Oceans and Human Health, and Sustainable Fisheries. Those in the D.C. area can then register to meet with Congressional offices the day after the conference, on June 6, to advocate for sustainably managed oceans with their representatives.