American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

National Ocean Conference

The following report appears as a News Note in the August 1998 issue of Geotimes. It is reprinted here with permission.

As schools let out for the summer and vacationers flocked to the beaches, the oceans also were being celebrated by scientists and policymakers at the National Ocean Conference in Monterey, California. The conference focused on promoting public awareness of the many ways oceans affect our nation. The conference attracted considerable attention in large part due to the participation of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, who used the event as a bully pulpit to announce a series of initiatives to "explore, protect, and restore America's vital ocean resources."

The United Nations (U.N.) named 1998 as the Year of the Ocean (YOTO) in order to increase awareness of human impacts on the world's oceans and the many resources that the ocean supplies. The Monterey conference is the culmination of United States involvement in YOTO, which is being coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and involves sixteen other federal agencies. During YOTO, the agencies are promoting themes that represent the wide variety of services the ocean provides: maritime transportation; national security; marine environmental quality; recreation and tourism; and weather, climate, and natural hazards.

The conference was held on June 11 and 12 and included representatives of academia, environmental groups, business and industry, and local, state and federal government. Several of the events took place at Monterey Bay, the nation's largest marine sanctuary. Intended to promote public awareness of US dependence on oceans, the conference featured forums on Oceans and Commerce; Oceans and Global Security; Ocean Environment and Health, and Ocean Exploration, Education, and Research. Highlights of the conference were presented several days later during the oceans-focused World's Fair in Lisbon, Portugal.

Presidential Proposals
After viewing Monterey Bay from a research vessel, Vice President Gore said that "in the 21st century, the world will look increasingly to the oceans for food, fuel, new medicine, and other resources. We must be careful stewards and ensure the oceans are protected for all time." To help meet this goal, he and President Clinton called on the Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention, which establishes international law for ocean activities, including fishing, commercial, and military activities. In addition, President Clinton announced more than $200 million in new or expanded programs to conserve marine resources. Items of interest to geoscientists include:

In addition to the conference, other activities to celebrate YOTO have occurred. Beginning early in the year, NOAA launched an educational campaign, complete with posters, handouts, and public service announcements. These posters, along with an explanation of YOTO activities, are available on the NOAA website. The site also features a "Kid's and Teacher's section" with games and facts about the ocean.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Contributed by Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs Program
Posted August 1, 1998

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