Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2015

Capitol Hill Ocean Week (June 9-11)the nations largest, most focused, and highest level of oceans discussions. #CHOW2015 on Twitter

With the start of the 114th Congress, Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) marked a unique opportunity to shape the U.S. marine policy agenda, engage leadership, cultivate new ocean champions, and drive lively conversation about America’s most critical ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes issues. For more than a decade, CHOW has convened Congressional Members and staff, Administration officials, state and local government representatives, business executives, military officials, academic experts, and conservation leaders to explore a wide range of cutting-edge and challenging policy issues relating to our ocean.

CHOW is an incredible 3 day event, including an Awards Gala presented by the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation (NMSF). I have never been surrounded by so many government officials, top notch conservationists, and incredibly inspirational individuals who hold high levels of power.

IMG_6472 (2)

Discussing arctic policy with Ambassador David Balton, Dr Lawson Brigham, Lisa Speer, and Admiral Papp, before their panel “Taking the Helm: Chairing the Arctic Council”

Instead of writing about each panel, I will give quotes and excerpts from my favorite ones. The first day was truly awe inspiring. From the US Ocean policy address, the potential collaborations with Cuba, to the US Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, all panels invoked incredible discussions on the US’s roles and responsibilities for coastal and ocean protection. I was given the incredible opportunity to personally discuss Arctic policy before the discussants began their panel. It was so rewarding to be asked questions on what I would do, as well seeing all the similar opinions I have with them. I am hoping that I can keep in close contact with each of these influential leaders and collaborate together during my last year at MIIS and onwards.

“Everything in the ocean is connected just like everyone on Earth is connected…everybody is downstream. The health of our oceans effects the health of our people” Representative Lois Capps

FullSizeRender (4)

Her Royal Deepness, Dr. Sylvia Earl and her jellyfish coat

At the 2015 National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Gala (also called “Oceans Prom”), Sylvia Earle presented the Ocean Award for Leadership to President and Mrs. George W. Bush. Their role in protecting the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was historic, paving the way for others to create even larger sanctuaries to restore the health of our ocean. Sylvia Earle is my all time hero, she was my motivation for studying marine biology and becoming an ocean advocate. Never have I been surrounded by so many famous individuals and their family members. Previous winners of the Leadership and Lifetime Awards have included President Bill Clinton, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Sen. Ted Stevens, Rep. Lois Capps, Nancy Pelosi, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Jean-Michel Custeau, the Hon. Norman Mineta, and many more. While I met many influential leaders that night, a conversation with one woman left me feeling empowered. She reminded me how much this industry is run by men, but to never let it stop or discourage me. She told me of her own struggles and hard work, and that only by incorporating more women into our field will things began to change. She gave me hope and energy to work my hardest to harness changes not only in our oceans, but for women in our field. 

IMG_6516 (2)

Dr. Jeremy Jackson

IMG_6483 (2)

With co-worker and MIIS IEP alumni Matt Nicols










Dr. Jeremy Jackson was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award, and gave one of the most heartfelt, funny, and emotional speeches I have ever heard. He made the audience tear up and laugh with his sheer charisma. He made sure to make one thing very clear, his work is most definitely not over. While many may have been content with receiving such a prestigious award, he said the name of the award should be changed, so the winners will continue to work hard. He may have made us all laugh, but he left us with a haunting reminder of the work that is still left. “Humans will see more environmental change in the next century than we’ve seen in the past 7000 yrs.”


IMG_6513 (3)

Mark Spalding, President of the Ocean foundation & Senior Fellow at the CBE

My absolute favorite panel was the leadership roundtable on the last day.  I highly recommend everyone interested in any type of environmental action watch it. It was a 1 hour discussion between Kristen Sarri (Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management & Budge, US Dept of the Interior), Mark Spalding (President of The Ocean Foundation), the Honorrable Dennis McGinn (Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, & Environment), Dr. Jeremy Jackson (Smithsonian Institution & Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Dr. Kathryn Sullivan (under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans & Atmosphere & NOAA Administrator), and the Honorable Sam Farr (US House of Reps CA, co-chair US House Ocean Caucus).

The panel began with each discussant trying to explain why space, particularly the moon, was not only researched and understood so much more than our oceans, but cared about to a higher degree by the general public. Representative Farr made very valid points about what NASA has done differently than NOAA, how effective their communications methods are, and how NOAA along with the rest of ocean related organizations, needs drastic improvement in outreach. During its early years, NASA focused much of its resources to communications, especially toward children. They were discouraged by the industry from doing so, but did it regardless. Now NASA has summer camps, children sending congress their pennies during times of budget cuts, leading children to grow up with a deep love and excitement for space. Farr says we’re spending more money on satellites than oceans, and that’s wrong. He questioned why NOAA doesn’t have a summer ocean camp for children, why organizations don’t send undeserved communities to the coast, etc. The ocean community needs more outreach. However, there is also another large difference. Everyone can see the moon. It is a daily and global reminder to all of mankind. The oceans are not as easily remembered.

Within a few minitues “blue economy” and “new blue economy” started to get thrown around a lot. Many people kept mentioning how no one has been able to figure out the exact values of the blue economy or how much industries related to the oceans are making. Mark Spalding responded by giving a huge shoutout to the Center for the Blue Economy (CBE). He said the CBE and the National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) is the only place in the world currently doing exactly that. He also mentioned the symposium the CBE is holding in the fall to everyone and how important our work is. It was so exciting to hear the place that I work at in Monterey being mentioned during such high level discussions. I proudly discussed with many individuals that I met during CHOW our research atCBE/NOEP, especially after Mark Spalding captivated everyone’s interest in our work . Sam Farr also mentioned MIIS and Monterey multiple times during the discussion as case studies of incredible conservation work and student leaders. It was both heartwarming and rewarding.

Another main discussion was the health of the oceans.  Dr Jeremy Jackson says Antarctica is the most beautiful place he’s ever been, but “nothing there’s going to survive [because of climate change],  polar ecosystems and wildlife will be destroyed by climate change. See them now, while you can.” However, Dr. Jackson also left us with a glimmer of hope. He discussed a 40 year survey of coral decline in Caribbean shows most degradation due to fixable local impacts, not climate change. While there is so much more to report on from this powerhouse discussion, I will leave it with a very powerful quote given by the Honorable Denis McGinn:

 “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

Leadership Roundtable: Kristen Sarri, Mark Spalding, the Honorrable Dennis McGinn, Dr. Jeremy Jackson, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, and the Honorable Sam Farr.


IMG_6499 (1)

Bian Deese, Senior Advisor to the President talks IUU Fishing, the Arctic Council, and Obama’s plans for ocean conservation

Brian Deese, Senior White House advisor gave the keynote address at Capitol Hill Ocean Week. It was incredibly exciting to hear him discuss the importance of the Arctic for president Obama and his administration. He not only reminded us of the great ocean policies the administration has done in the past years, but what they are currently focusing on- the arctic (high seas fishing, protected areas, etc), illegal fishing (which pose huge environmental and human rights advises), ocean acidification, and oil/gas.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made (on ocean protection) but we are not done. we can use the next 18 months to do big things on Marine protected areas, the Arctic and halting illegal fishing. Challenge us when you think we’re falling down on the job”.

See full agenda and list of speakers here. Blow is the condensed agenda for each day.

Tuesday June 9th
  • Opening Keynote VIDEO  (French Minister of Economy, Sustainable Development & Energy)
  • U.S. Ocean Policy Address VIDEO (White house Bureau Chief Juliet Elprin, Managing Director of White House Council on Environmental Quality John Holdren, & Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Christy Goldfuss)
  • Special Lunch Session: The Promise and Potential for Collaborative Marine Conservation with Cuba VIDEO (US Senate, Rhode Island the Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse; Ambassador Jose Ramon Cabanas Rodriguez; Ambassador Balton Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans & Fisheries, Bureau of Oceans & International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, US Dept of State)
  • Securing the Coasts: U.S. Navy & U.S. Coast Guard VIDEO (President and CEO Consortium for Ocean Leadership Sherri Goodman; Rear Admiral Jonathan White Oceanographer and navigator of the U.S. Navy; Rear Admiral John P. Nadeua CG-7 Assistant Commandant for Capability, US Coast Guard)
  • Taking the Helm: Chairing The Arctic Council VIDEO (Ambassador David Balton; Honorable Lisa Murkowski US Senate, Alaska and Co-Chair US Senate Caucus; Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr. USCG, US Special Representative for the Arctic; Lisa Speer, Director of International Oceans NRDC; Dr. Lawson Brigham Professor of Arctic Policy)
2015 Ocean Awards Gala 6:00pm – 10:30pm at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. 

Every June in conjunction with Capitol Hill Ocean Week, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation recognizes our nation’s ocean heroes at its annual Ocean Awards Gala. At the dinner, NMSF presents its Leadership Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, and NMSF Volunteer of the Year Award.

  • Leadership Award | President and Mrs. George W. Bush | Bios
  • Lifetime Acheivement Award | Dr. Jeremy Jackson | Smithsonian Institution & Scripps Institution of Oceanography | Bio
  • Volunteer of the Year |Richard Matzinger | Bio
Wednesday, June 10th
  • Creating and Sustaining Destinations for Tourism and Recreation VIDEO (Honorable Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Senate Wisconsin; Honorable David Jolly, US House of Reps FL-13; Craig Cates, Mayo of Key West Florida; Tom Mlada, Mayor Port Washington Wisconsin; Lauren Wenzel Acting Director NOAA MPA Center)
  • Changing Maritime Commerce Space: The Direction of U.S. Shipping VIDEO (Honorable Alan Lowenthal, US House of Reps CA-47; Chris Koch, President & CEO World Shipping Council; David Yosokowitz, Chief Economist NOAA; etc)
  • Shaping the Nation’s Energy Outlook in Uncertain Times VIDEO (Dr. Walter Cruickshank Deputy Director BOEM, US Dept of Interior; etc)
  • Ensuring A Sustainable U.S. Seafood Supply VIDEO (Honorable Rob Wittman, US House of Reps VA-01; Susan Jackson, President International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, etc.)
Thursday, June 11th
  • Fueling American Business: Ocean Technology and Research VIDEO (Craig McLean, Assistant Adminstrator NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research; etc.)
  • Keynote Given by Brian Deese, Senior Advisor to the President
  • Presidential Task Force on IUU Fishing & Seafood Fraud VIDEO ( Dawn Martin, President Sea Web; Russell Smith II Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries, NOAA, US Dept of Commerce, etc)
  • Leadership Roundtable VIDEO (Mark Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation; Honorable Sam Farr, US House of Reps CA-20, Co-Chair US House Oceans Caucus; Honorable Dennis McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, & Environment, US Navy; Dr Jeremy Jackson, Smithsonian Institution & Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 2015 NMSF Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree; Kristen J. Sarri, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management & Budge, US Dept of the Interior; Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans & Atmosphere & NOAA Administrator, US Dept of Commerce)

Leave a Reply