Legislators call for more ocean mapping

Legislation before Congress reintroduces the National Ocean Exploration Act, which would authorize the National Ocean Mapping, Exploration and Characterization Council, updating priorities for ocean studies.

“With Alaska’s vast coastline and our changing climate, the responsible exploration, stewardship, and development of our nation’s oceans is as important as ever,” said Sen. Lisa

Murkowski, R-Alaska, a cosponsor of the reintroduction of the National Ocean Exploration Act with Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

The bill reauthorizes key NOAA programs that support ocean and coastal mapping, hydrographic surveys and spatial data collection, Murkowski said. It also includes funding increases to allow the federal government to continue investing in this work. “For a state as under-mapped as Alaska, sustained federal attention and investment into ocean mapping will be absolutely imperative to close the charting backlog in the Arctic and bring our spatial datasets into the 21st century,” she said.

Cantwell noted that the ocean exploration program supports Pacific Northwest research from mapping the Arctic to facilitate shipping, tourism and commerce, to exploring the biological and cultural importance of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

The legislation would also establish a system to enhance the public accessibility of ocean-related National Environmental Policy Act documents and the geo-referenced data included in them.

A link to the bill is online at cdv.tiny.us/mapping.

The bill was introduced in the 116th Congress by Cantwell, Schatz and Wicker, but did not become law, and so was required to be reintroduced during the 117th Congress. The reintroduced bill has been minimally modified from the previous version,