Making waves together at Capitol Hill Ocean Week
© Getty Images

Sitting in a windowless cube farm on K Street or staring out the window of a government building at the faceless edifice next door, many people in Washington, D.C. may be spending a hot Monday in June daydreaming about a relaxing day at the beach. They can almost feel the cool water splash on their toes and the sea breeze tousle their damp hair as a crab skitters along the sand.

We may not be able to escape the city to go to the beach. But this week is Capitol Hill Ocean Week, when the ocean comes to Washington. Specifically, top scientific experts, authorities on marine wildlife, climate scientists, fishing industry leaders, and lots of people who simply care about our ocean come together to explore what they can do to protect our ocean and coasts.

They will hear about an ocean that is experiencing a set of grand challenges, from acidification to depleted fisheries, but more importantly, they will be part of a community asking how we can tackle the problems and find solutions.

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Climate change is having widespread disruptive impacts on the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes and the communities who rely on them. We will talk about the best ways to mitigate and adapt to the risks posed by sea level rise, ocean acidification, and warming waters, and hear from our country’s emerging leaders about what they are doing to make a difference.

As energy needs continue to grow globally, siting decisions, seismic testing, and infrastructure development will require balancing different ocean user needs with maintaining a healthy ocean for both people and wildlife. We must plan for the energy growth of the future and protect the ocean for the well-being of our planet.

With more than 3 billion people dependent on the ocean for their primary source of protein, establishing a sustainable, global seafood market is more critical than ever. We can transform business practices, protect human rights, and maintain food security to ensure a thriving ocean.

Marine wildlife face a number of threats, including habitat loss, bycatch and targeted fishing efforts, entanglements and ship strikes, and a warmer and more acidic ocean. We can use technology, education and outreach, government treaties, and dynamic management to conserve species and ecosystems.

Finding solutions to each of these issues is a daunting endeavor that is worth undertaking. We need the conversations at Capitol Hill Ocean Week to reverberate through the halls of Congress, in the administration and at the White House. There, those who hold the power to turn solutions into policy must act.

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We need robust investments in conservation, monitoring and science programs that protect our ocean, coasts and Great Lakes. We need to protect our national marine sanctuaries and marine monuments and the scientific discovery and exploration, sustainable development and recreation they support. We need to support effective fisheries management and biodiversity conservation laws that benefit both the environment and the economy.

The fight to conserve our ocean needs more voices. It needs diverse voices. And it needs passionate voices.

Concern for the health of our ocean and Great Lakes has never been stronger, but so is our capacity for saving it. Right now is the time for action. The grand challenges facing our ocean, and along with it human health, a healthy economy, and marine wildlife, depend on it.

Kris Sarri is president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.