World - Our resilient ocean can help revitalize our economy

Our ocean is vulnerable, just as we are in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. And like us, it is also resilient.

As we recognize this World Oceans Day, we understand that a healthy ocean is a necessity. Our ocean sustains life. Our economic well-being is tied to a clean ocean for fishing, tourism and other industries. For years, the ocean has literally “taken the heat” for us and mitigated the effects of rising global temperatures. The ocean absorbs human-caused pollution, making it acidic and less habitable to species of all sorts. We must be mindful not to exact any more damage. In fact, in the wake of an unprecedented economic and health crisis, our healthy ocean can provide answers to how we rebuild our economy. We must do so in a more sustainable and resilient way that protects our planet and supports good-paying jobs.

Healthy coastal and marine habitats are vital economic engines. Coastal communities, including Tampa Bay and the Oregon coast, contribute $7.6 trillion to the U.S. economy annually. The blue economy – the part of our economy that directly depends on our ocean – drives approximately 149,000 businesses in our country that employ more than 3 million people. But our coastal communities are struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Until visitors can safely return and support the economic prosperity of our coastal communities through tourism, recreation and support for our fisheries, we need to throw them a lifeline. Restoration and resilience projects can rapidly provide economic and ecological benefits for coastal communities.

Following the economic downturn in 2009, Congress provided the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with $167 million for coastal restoration projects. This fruitful investment supported 125 projects that restored more than 25,584 acres of coastal habitat, improved 677 miles of streams of fish habitat, removed more than 433,397 tons of debris from coastal habitats, and created more than 2,280 jobs. Ten years later, our communities need another investment that addresses the damage to our coasts.

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