Today marks the United States Coast Guard’s 230th birthday. That’s 230 years of protecting more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and waterways and the communities who call them home. Today is the perfect time to celebrate and recognize the important work the Coast Guard does for our ocean.
First, the Coast Guard protects those of us who spend time on the water, whether for work, for play or for subsistence. Here in Alaska, we can experience some of the coldest, most treacherous marine conditions in the U.S. But the Coast Guard is here to ensure we stay safe on the water and provide assistance when things go wrong, from rescuing injured fishermen to locating lost kayakers. Many lives have been saved in Alaska alone thanks to the brave actions of the people of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Outside of their daring rescues, the Coast Guard plays a lesser known—and critically important—role in ocean conservation. The Coast Guard has teams on the water every single day, meaning they have valuable knowledge about the status of our ocean. In Alaska, for example, they are conducting critical safety inspections of coastal fuel storage facilities to prevent harmful spills. They are also conducting a study on vessel traffic in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas to recommend measures to improve safety and environmental protection. In a rapidly-warming place like the Arctic, information like this is critical to the responsible management of increasing vessel traffic.
The Coast Guard has long been a part of the fight for sustainable seas. They are one of the oldest partners of the U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries, alongside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Coast Guard helps monitor and enforce sanctuary regulations so people don’t defy the rules that keep the sanctuaries protected. They also work with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to enforce fisheries regulations, helping to ensure people follow catch limits and restrictions, and monitoring for illegal fishing activity in U.S. waters. The Coast Guard also supports scientific study of our oceans. For instance, the polar icebreaker HEALY has facilitated science-focused missions in Arctic waters for many years.
Another huge role of the Coast Guard is emergency response. If you look to any major marine disaster, from hurricanes to the BP oil disaster, the Coast Guard is there, ready to jump into action. We know this all too well in Alaska, where the Coast Guard has been called to respond to multiple oil spills in our frigid waters—including the infamous Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 and the tragic grounding of the Selendang Ayu in 2004.
I am incredibly grateful for the work the Coast Guard does to keep our ocean—and those of us who interact with it—safe. On behalf of Ocean Conservancy, I wish them a very happy birthday!
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