President Bush Discusses U.S. Ocean Action Plan
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. Thank you, Secretary Clough, for the introduction. And congratulations on the opening of the Sant Ocean Hall -- which, by the way, opens tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. The Secretary and I just had a fabulous tour. These exhibits in this hall will remind people that our oceans are vital for our planet -- this is going to heighten awareness of how important our oceans are and that we have a solemn duty to protect them.
And so I've come not only to see the hall and to herald its opening, but to spend a little time talking about ocean conservation. There are a lot of people in this room who care about ocean conservation, and I appreciate you working with us to help preserve a vital natural resource.
First of all, I do want to recognize the Chancellor of the Smithsonian Institute's Board of Regents -- I call him the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court -- Justice Roberts, thank you for coming. (Applause.) I appreciate very much the Sant family -- Roger and Vicki; Roger turns out to be the Chairman of the Institute's Board of Regents, and a big supporter, obviously, of the Smithsonian, otherwise they probably wouldn't have named the hall for him. (Laughter.) But thank you for your generosity and your support. (Applause.)
Cristian Samper is the Director of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and he gave us a tour today and he's a knowledgeable fellow, a biologist, and he will make sure that these exhibits remain relevant for the -- you know, for the education of the American people. And I want to than you, Cristian, for your service.
I'm proud to be here with a member of my Cabinet, Carlos Gutierrez, Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA, which had something to do with this facility. I want to thank Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo -- there she is, Madeleine, good to see you, thank you for coming. She is from Guam. I appreciate the winners of the National Ocean Art Contest who are here today -- that would be you all. (Applause.)
I'm about to talk about some policy we've been implementing, and I want to thank all those in the room for helping. There's a lot of folks around the country and here in Washington who care deeply about the oceans. And many of the organizations that have worked constructively with our administration are here, and I thank you for your efforts -- because the truth of the matter is that we have got a good record working with you. And I want to share some thought about it.
First of all, you got to know I like oceans. I didn't grow up in the ocean -- as a matter of fact -- near the ocean -- I grew up in the desert. Therefore, it was a pleasant contrast to see the ocean. And I particularly like it when I'm fishing. It turns out it's a -- I'm not the first President likes to fish. It turns out the first President really liked to fish. George Washington -- I was reading where he one time caught 100,000 herring in a single day. That's either a lot of fish or a lot of fishing. (Laughter.) But unlike that George W., I have not had that kind of luck before. (Laughter.)
America is a maritime nation. Obviously the -- protecting the oceans are in our interest. It turns out that commercial and recreational fishing add more than $76 billion to our economy every year. Seaport-related businesses add an estimated $2 trillion in economic activity. And the oceans are important for our economic -- you know, as an economic lifeline. They're important to our economy. Seas also offer limitless opportunities for recreation and transportation and education and research. It all adds up to the fact we got to be good stewards.
And so we developed what we call the Ocean Action Plan. I'm a guy who likes -- when people walk into my office, I like to say, you know, what are the specific steps and how are we doing at achieving them? This particular plan started off with 88 different points of action, expectations -- we've met 87 of them. When the Senate passes a treaty, we will have met 88 of them. And it's -- (applause.)
Many of you in this room helped develop the plan, many of you helped implement the plan. And I thank you. The goal is to make our oceans' coast and Great Lakes cleaner, healthier, and more productive. I want to spend a little time talking about some of the successes.
Under the Ocean Action Plan we've worked to stop over-fishing. Last year, I issued an executive order protecting two of our nation's most popular game fish -- striped bass and red drum. I signed important legislation reauthorizing the Magnuson Stevenson [sic] Act, which sets a firm deadline to end over-fishing in America by 2011. Many in this hall helped pass that piece of legislation and I thank you. Thanks to these and other efforts, we are beginning to see progress toward ending over-fishing.
At the beginning of my administration, 44 fish stocks were listed as over-fished. Today, almost half of those stocks are no longer on the list. That's good news. Along the way, we've stepped up our efforts to identify additional fish stocks that are at risk -- and we're going to take steps to protect them.
We're protecting and restoring vital wetland and marine habitats. In 2004, I set a goal of restoring, improving, and protecting 3 million acres of interior and coastal wetlands in five years; we have met that goal one year ahead of schedule. This effort includes our watershed restoration project in the Florida Everglades, which is the largest in the world. During my administration, we have put two-thirds of federal waters -- about 2.3 million square nautical miles -- off-limits to harmful bottom-trawling and dredging. We care what happens in the oceans.
We made a special effort to protect the tropical forests of the sea: coral reefs. Some of the most spectacular reefs are found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, which I created in June of 2006, thanks to the efforts of many in this hall. This monument is the world's largest fully protected marine conservation area, and it covers more than 7,000 marine species -- a quarter of which are found nowhere else on Earth.