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Critical Choices in Ocean Governance

Speakers: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, Admiral Thad W. Allen, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, David Rockefeller Jr., President and Founder, Sailors for the Sea, and Tom Fry, President, National Ocean Industries Association
Presider: Scott G. Borgerson, Visiting Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
March 8, 2010, New York
Council on Foreign Relations


SCOTT G. BORGERSON: Okay, we'll get started. Thank you. First, thank you, everyone, for coming on what is a very exciting evening for the Council on Foreign Relations, I think probably our biggest and best oceans meeting to date and on a new product, a interactive Web Oceans Governance Monitor, which will show the introductory video here in a second.

But first, my name is Scott Borgerson. I'm the visiting fellow for ocean governance at CFR, and I'll be the moderator for this evening's event, which is titled, Critical Choices in Ocean Governance. First, a few housekeeping issues. If everyone could please turn off your Blackberries and iPhones and other sorts of things, not just put it on vibrate, because it can cause problems for the sound systems. Thank you.

Second, especially for our panelists, a reminder -- unlike some council meetings, this meeting is on the record, and there are some media present, so we all know. Not that that's a bad thing, but just to be aware. And lastly, during the second half of the meeting -- it's meant to be a town-hall-type discussion where we are making progress on the critical choices in the ocean governance arena that confront this country. So we'll sort of give everyone an opportunity to make a contribution. If you do, please say not only your name, but where you're from. We have a extraordinary -- as you'll see from the roster for this evening -- representation across government and industry, the legislative and executive branches, environmental groups, NGOs, et cetera. I think it would be helpful if you could say where you're coming from, and also keep your comment or question succinct.

This meeting is sponsored by the council's International Institutions and Global Governance Program, which aims to identify the institutional requirements for effective multilateral cooperation in the 21st century. The program is supported by a generous grant from the Robina Foundation and is led by the council's senior fellow, Stewart Patrick, in the front row, who I personally would like to thank for his leadership and vision in supporting oceans at the council. Ocean area is not traditionally in the council's portfolio. This is new for us. But, of course, it is vitally and directly important to U.S. foreign policy and national security, and so I appreciate your program's support.

The purpose for this meeting is to put U.S. ocean governance into that broader international context and to have a open and frank discussion about the critical issues that are confronting U.S. policymakers. For example, to prime the pump here, what happens after the president's Oceans Policy Task Force, the other major executive initiative that you've never heard about, or for those in this room, maybe that you follow closely. How will that be integrated, not only amongst other departments, but with the foreign policies and ocean policies abroad, European Union, Japan, Australia and others? How do emerging issues, such as the open Arctic, fishery management, and Chinese navy, to name but a few, affect U.S. foreign policy, what the tangible costs remaining outside of the Law of the Sea Treaty, and when might the Senate finally take action on this treaty that is unique in its extraordinary importance to the national interests?

But before diving into these and other pressing maritime issues, the day after the Oscars, I felt that it's only appropriate to give credit where credit's due for the production of the Oceans Governance Monitor. First, like to thank my agent, my producer, King Neptune, who made all this possible, of course. No, seriously. I'd like to acknowledge several council staff that were instrumental into the production -- you'll see the video here shortly -- in this extraordinary and unique interactive guide, especially Pri Battachari (ph), who is here this evening and helped organize this event, Farah Saylor (ph), who is a research associate who's had time to navigate the interactive matrix on the global initiatives and treaties and bilateral arrangements. Every single one on earth, including some fishery ones, is present on this website. It seemed relatively straightforward when we set out to do this project. Oceans cover only, of course, nearly three quarters of the earth's surface. How many treaties can there be? There are quite a few, and you'll see them all on the website.

I especially would like to thank, however, Casey Brown, who is the programs deputy director and has been the vision and leadership and really driving force to pull all the pieces together to stay after the research associates and me and the producers of the video and others. She was extraordinary in her energy, and I am grateful.

For those of you not familiar with this, the Global Governance Monitor is an online tool that maps multilateral efforts to tackle today's global challenges, including nuclear non-proliferation, global finance, and now ocean governance. This is but one of the counsel's many cutting edge multi-media products, which also include Emmy award-winning crisis guides on issues including climate change and Darfur. And I believe this is the first time this council has shown one of its videos in front of a live audience, and so this is a special night for us.

If you have time after the event, I would encourage everyone, if you've not already made it your homepage, to please visit the monitor online. It has multiple pieces, including a timeline which traces efforts, ocean governance, starting in the 15th century to today, an issue brief that summarizes the current status of international oceans regime and critical choices for U.S. ocean policy, an interactive matrix, which catalogs, as mentioned, all relevant international maritime agreements, arrangements, organizations, including their coverage, strengths, and the shortcomings and gaps amongst them. And you can find all this at So

And this meeting could not have come at a better time with the work of the White House Ocean Policy Task Force, what I think Admiral Allen might speak to and others, the mounting urgency for the Senate to finally offer its advice and consent to the 1982 United Nation convention, Law of the Sea, and a historic moment on a host of critical issues from emerging issues like piracy, economic issues, which I know Tom will speak to, such as renewable energy and offshore oil and gas production, and environmental issues from the ocean's warming and acidification, the opening Arctic, among others.

So tonight we're excited to start the meeting by first screening the opening piece of the Oceans Monitor. It's a short eight-minute clip that frames the state of ocean governance and we hope will kickstart this evening's discussion. So with that, can we please cue the video, and then we'll move to our panel.

(Video plays.)


BORGERSON: Can we turn the lights back on, please? (Laughter.) While we're getting the lights, I'll begin introducing our distinguished panel, who will address from their perspective these important issues in the ocean space confronting our country and our policymakers. I'll introduce everyone quickly at first, and they'll agree to make succinct statements, and then this is meant, again, to be sort of a town-hall-style discussion about how as a country we can make good choices in the ocean governance space to address some of those issues that the video raised.

So first, it is my honor to introduce Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, the ocean state. He has --


BORGERSON: -- long been a leader on ocean and environmental issues, and he sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee, among others. Everyone's full bio, by the way, is in the program you should've received.

WHITEHOUSE: Glad to be with you.

BORGERSON: Admiral Thad Allen, also a CFR member. By the way, I'd like to note -- has served as an officer in the Coast Guard for 39 years, culminating in his current position as the commandant of the Coast Guard. Admiral Allen's distinguished career includes many highlights. I'd especially like to note, however, his role in leading the response and recovery operations after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and his modernization of the Coast Guard and his current role as one of the principal leaders in the president's Oceans Policy Task Force.

David Rockefeller, to my left -- also a CFR member and active in the council's Ocean Governance Roundtable Series. David is the founder and president of Sailors for the Sea. He's also a former vice chair of the National Park Foundation, former national vice chair of the Alaska Conservation Foundation, and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, whose work, along with U.S. Oceans Commission, grew into the Joint Oceans Commission Initiative, and, of course, has been instrumental in culminating in the current Oceans Policy Task Force.

And Tom Fry to my left has served as the president of the National Ocean Industries Association since 2000. Tom brings an important private sector perspective to this evening's event as a representative of the offshore oil and gas and renewable energy industries, and he's also served in government as the director of the Department of Interior's Mineral Management Service and the Bureau of Lands Management.

So we have an extraordinary panel, and Senator, if I may turn to you first, thank you for coming this evening and for addressing us on oceans.

WHITEHOUSE: Well, thank you, Scott. I'm very pleased that the Council on Foreign Relations has taken up oceans issues as a feature of your interest. I've been familiar with this organization for some time. My father was a Foreign Service officer and a member. My uncle, Bob Blake, who is here, is a Foreign Service officer and still a member. I see John Negroponte here. So I'm very familiar with all the good work of CFR and very pleased to participate in kicking off the ocean issue. And I'm also very impressed with the quality, not only of the panel, but also of the audience who is here. There's the saying that I'd be preaching to the choir. In this crowd I'm not just preaching to the choir, I'm preaching to the people who wrote the hymnal -- (laughter) -- and very glad to be here.

This is a personal issue for me. My wife is a marine biologist. Indeed, when I was pursuing her I offered up my amateur tropical, recreational scuba capabilities to help her with her field work, and her response to that was to take me out sampling in Narragansett Bay in February. (Laughter.) I knew I was in trouble when task one was chipping the ice off the boat. And so for us in the ocean state it's very, very significant. A predecessor of mine years ago, Theodore Francis Green, was once twitted by an irritated colleague and asked, so how big is that little state of yours anyway? And he answered, well, that would depend, wouldn't it? And the other senator was flummoxed and said, well, what do you mean? And he answered, high tide or low tide? (Laughter.)

So it matters, and it matters a lot. As the wonderful video said, the oceans really are the dominant resource of our planet, and we've paid far too little attention to it. The economic theory of the tragedy of the commons is being worked out on the ocean at a massive scale, and we see it in the changes that the ocean is undergoing. It's rising. It's warming. It's enduring biological changes as it rises and warms. It is continuing to be bombarded with pollution, and it's facing chemical changes. That's a lot all at once for this resource, and it means a lot to us in Rhode Island. If you're familiar with my state, Narragansett Bay is sort of a wedge that drives up towards Providence, north to south. And we've seen maybe half an inch to an inch of sea level rise, which seems like absolutely nothing until another big storm comes roaring up the coast and pushes a storm surge ahead of it up the bay focused by the narrowing geography of the bay, and that inch starts to pile on top of itself and hits the hurricane barrier in Providence and makes the difference between a stormy day and more plaques on the buildings, showing how high the water was in various hurricanes.

We saw the president of the Maldives. He had a cabinet meeting not too long ago in scuba gear under water to demonstrate what the sea level rise prospects were for his country. Narragansett Bay is warming. It's four degrees warmer in the winter in the last 40 years. To a casual swimmer like me, that is not something that I notice.

QUESTIONER: Is that Centigrade or Fahrenheit?

WHITEHOUSE: Fahrenheit. But to the creatures that live there that make it their home, it's an ecosystem shift, and Narragansett Bay is experiencing a full ecosystem shift right now as a result of it, and those biological changes are very significant for our fishing industry in particular. Pollution is to the point now where Roger Payne, who many of you of my generation will recall, is the person who first recorded the sound -- the song of the humpback whale back when people had LPs. You might have had an LP with the humpback whale on it. He's now measuring the level of pollutants in the fat of whales, even those that never get really close to humankind, and finding that for many species they have become so toxic that they are now essentially swimming toxic waste.

In the summers in Rhode Island very often whales come ashore. They've been injured, or they get stranded, or they simply have died and come ashore. It's at the point where if you take that whale off the beach and take it to the town dump, you're probably violating our hazardous waste disposal laws, and if you tow the carcass back out to sea, you're probably violating the Clean Water Act. And then the ultimate hazard, obviously, comes from climate change and the chemical changes that it creates through ocean acidification. And we're playing for very big stakes when we are playing with the likelihood or the prospect of the base of the food chain, the krill, the small mollusks, the coral reefs that are a nursery for so much of our ocean habitat are all potentially put at risk of living in an ocean in which they are now soluble. And we've never been through the experiment of what happens if the base of the oceanic food chain collapses, but it's a dangerous experiment to embark on.

So there are very, very great risks, and we're going to need not only international, but before we get there, national political attention to address them. And I hope that in the Senate I'm helpful at doing so, but at the moment we seem to be headed in certain dimensions for a post-rational political environment -- (laughter) -- and it's very hard to get people to pay attention to real threats when they are comfortable living in a post-rational political environment. So I hope that all of you can help bring a little bit of rationality back into that debate and focus us so that we can take the steps we need to.

Thanks very much.


BORGERSON: Admiral Allen?

ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN: Post-rational political environment. (Laughter.) Thank you, Senator, I love that. (Laughter.) Well, first of all, my opening comments were upstaged because I start nearly every discussion, presentation, or comment on ocean policy with Arthur C. Clarke's quotation, and you put it at the end of the tape, where he says quite clearly we should call this planet Ocean, the most defining feature of the planet from space. But let me say I'm proud to be here with my esteemed colleagues up here, and Senator, I've had -- actually had discussions about some of the issues we're going to talk about tonight, so it'll be interesting, educating, and I think maybe fun, sir, to talk about some of the stuff that's on everybody's minds. I also note that we have press in the area, and I think I can see a GAO auditor back there, so I'm mindful that -- (laughter) -- this'll be completely transparent as we move forward.

When I became commandant of the Coast Guard in 2006, I wanted a paradigm by which to consider our mission sets. And I affinitized our mission sets into three general areas: safety, stewardship and security. To take all the 11 missions of the Coast Guard -- they relate to that. I've also heard many times people say that we protect the sea from man and man from the sea, which is not an unlikely comparison either.

I want to take a couple minutes and just talk about the Coast Guard and who we are, and then I wanted to provide some framing comments about how we consider what I would call governance in the global commons. And frankly, a lot of these are universal truths whether you're talking about the global commons related to the ocean, which we are talking about here tonight, air, space, or cyberspace. There are common attributes to global commons and governance issues that I think are critical and are worthy of discussion.

When I talk to most people about the Coast Guard -- and I'll give you a couple of minutes of DNA and I won't be any longer than that -- I tell everybody we are a unique product of the American revolution. Prior to the American revolution, we had border guards. We had armies. We had customs collectors. We had no maritime constabulary forces, also part of the military, that focused on sovereignty issues and littoral parts of countries. And I would tell you the 200 plus years since the Coast Guard was established as the revenue marine in 1790 to stop British smugglers to pay off the war debt and fund the operation of the government under the secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton -- we have accrued almost every non-defense mission that's on the water outside state waters.

We are as close to a whole-of-government agency as you will ever see. And while that is a tremendous source of pride to us, that carries very little weight with OMB examiners -- (laughter) -- appropriations committees, and authorizing committees, who are basically stovepiped by program appropriation or the account that they hold. That said, we take great pride in that, and we will continue to move forward and be a whole-of-government agency.

There will be no offshore fisheries enforcement for the National Marine Service of NOAA if we do not do it from our cutters. We also set NOAA buoys that collect climate logs, so data. We protect the marine sanctuaries. There was a new one that was established in Hawaii that I cannot say -- (laughs) -- even though I've tried several times. That is a long word. (Laughter.) We protect maritime transportation systems that allow the safe and efficient use of the waters for commerce. And Secretary Ridge once told me before he left the Department of Homeland Security, if we did not have a Coast Guard, we'd have to create one. And as I go around the world in the last three years, I've found that the emerging demand for Coast Guard and Coast Guard-like capacity outstrips our demand to be able to support combatant commanders in the State Department to help emerging nations.

I want to put a pitch in before I talk about governance on national security strategies for emerging nations. We have long thought in this world that the way to defend the nation is to project power -- air power, sea power, land power. We have many nations in the world. When you get below the top ten or 15 nations by population GDP, whatever you want to measure it in the world, their national security issues are not related to power projection. And if they are a maritime nation, they are related mostly to protecting their fish stocks, dealing with illegal migration, narcotics trafficking, oil and gas and offshore energy production, and use of the waters for maritime transportation and commerce. Unfortunately, they continue to make investments in power projection when they never project power, and maybe that's closer to regime stability than anything else. I don't know. I don't get -- that's not my line of work.

I see a trend in my travels around the world of more focus on national security strategies related to the sustainability of the country and things that are really important to them in their littoral areas and their exclusive economic zones. So when I became commandant in 2006, I wanted to have an overarching view of how we would manage maritime governance, and I want to talk about them because we still have not got a consensus in this country of what maritime governance is or what constitutes an adequate maritime security regime. And we have a lot of pending work, including the ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

In our view in the Coast Guard, there are three critical elements of governance of the commons, and the maritime commons in particular. The first one is a set of regimes, and that is the combination of international law, treaties, domestic legislation, rules, regulations and industry standards that basically establish the rules of conduct and how we interact with each other on the water. And that is incrementally changed every time there is a new convention that is ratified through IMO, every time a piece of domestic legislation is passed in any country or a time a new set of regulations is issued in the United States. That is the overall governance architecture by which we deal with the global commons.

That in and of itself does not produce results or does not guarantee effective management of the commons. The second thing we need to be aware of is what we call awareness, maritime domain awareness. You have to understand what's going on out there. That's anywhere from ocean sensing, to understanding what's on the water, what's below the water, what's happening to the water, how the water's being used. And we'll talk about marine spatial planning I'm sure before the night's over.

Once being made aware of what's happening out there in terms of activities and being able to assess risk, threats, and understand where you can have an impact, largely it should be ecosystem-based management as we are going to be talking about in marine spatial planning. Then what you do about it, and the third piece is capability. How do you get somebody on scene to produce the effect, to achieve the result that establishes an enforcement mechanism for the governing regimes that we've talked about? So in the last four years as commandant of the Coast Guard, we have tried to work in the international community, with the Congress, through our rulemaking processes and with our partner nations to focus on regimes, maritime domain awareness, and operational capability.

Now, why is governance important? At the risk of giving you all a civics lesson, I sometimes think that we've got the same problem everywhere in the world right now. It's a crisis of governance. Our traditional institutions, whether it's the United States Coast Guard or the United States of America, United Nations, whatever, are being challenged by things that transcend our organizational structures, the challenges, our ability to create regimes, awareness, and operational capability.

As I told my folks in the Coast Guard, you know, hurricanes do not respect our district boundaries, whereas my good friend Russ Honore, once said the hurricane has a vote. (Laughter.) There are things that confound the chains of command of our combatant commanders: missile defense, cyber security, terrorism. We have new ways of aggregating to produce social effects for good and bad. We have social media. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a GDP that's larger than most countries in the world. The range of actors that are out there is extraordinary, and I think it leads us to having a very muddled picture on how you actually govern a global commons and produce effects. And in my view, that's our largest challenge, and it's a challenge with the oceans. It's a challenge with cyber space. It is a challenge with climate change.

Dr. Holdren, the head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, spoke to a group in October on World Maritime Day. And he said there are three strategies to deal with climate change. And I've decided that his three strategies work for cyberspace, missile defense, and terrorism as well. You can suffer, you can adapt, or you can manage. I think in relation to the world we live in and the global commons, I think we need to confront the fact that our governance models have to give us the ability to move from suffering to adaptation to proactive management.

If I could move just for a little while into the Ocean Policy Task Force, the president signed a (new law ?) last June that created the Interagency Policy on Ocean Task Force. They were tasked with basically three deliverables. One was an actual ocean policy for the country. The second one was a governance model for inside the office of the president and how we would manage this. The third was a concept for marine spatial planning, which helps us adjudicate conflicting uses on the water, and many of which you saw in the video that was there.

We every day in the Coast Guard are presented with the requirement by statute and by regulation to comment on leases, permits, and other activities on the ocean that would impact navigational safety or security. We are making a decision on the use of the oceans, but what comes in our inbox we have to comment on, regardless of the priority or the timing of when it comes in. So if it's a windmill farm, offshore L&G facility, onshore L&G facility, issues related to offshore oil and gas exploration, fairways, traffic separation schemes, we have to talk about the security and the safety related to that activity. That sometimes is interpreted as a judgment on our part that that is the highest priority. It is not. That is the reason I think marine spatial planning is so important, not only for the country, but for the Coast Guard.

And I would just say in closing, because we have other speakers that need to talk here this evening, that the more we can enhance our ability and regimes, awareness, and operational capability, we will do a better job in governing the oceans. And should start first with ratifying the Law of the Sea treaty. (Applause.)

DAVID ROCKEFELLER, JR.: Well, it's a tall order to follow a distinguished senator and a distinguished admiral. I'll do my best. And thanks, Scott, for your leadership and the council's on this important set of issues. My most recent claim to fame is that I sailed around Cape Horn in January, and I sailed around on the day after it blew 100 right up the cape and luckily went around on a day when it blew only 15. So luck is an important element of surviving in the oceans.

Sailors for the Sea, which as Scott mentioned I founded, has had two very public products, and one of them I will talk about, and it's a film on ocean acidification called "A Sea Change." Some of you may have seen it. And we were the fiscal agent and distribution agent through the sailing community for it. And the other is a project called "Around the Americas," and it's a simple project in one sense. It asserts that this hemisphere, or our two continents are, in fact, one island in one ocean. And so we put together a boat that started in Seattle last May and sailed it around that one island, or we're about 75 percent of the way. It's just in Peru at the moment. And we got through the Northwest Passage last summer, and, of course, part of the point of doing that is to show that a sailboat can. We think it's one of just 100 boats that has made it through the Northwest Passage, and I assure you, there will be hundreds and hundreds in the near future who are making it, and we were unassisted and proud to have done that.

Having just returned from the coast of Chile, where I spent two weeks in January and February, luckily returning one week before the devastating quake -- and I observed many of the same issues there that we have in U.S. waters, and I think this is very important as an underlay for our discussions, that the issues that beset the U.S. and U.S. waters are issues that beset all of us, and therefore we would do well to make common cause around them. Those issues, of course, declining fish stocks, irresponsible fish farming, decline of coastal communities where artisanal fishing was once the core of economic health for those communities, and lack of coastal zone planning.

I particularly noted commonalities, by the way, between my experience on the coast of Alaska, where I've also sailed 3,000 miles of it, and the Canadian maritimes with commonalities with the coasts of Southern Patagonia, both Argentina and Chile. As we rounded the horn in January on a boat called Ocean Watch -- it's a 64-foot auxiliary steel sloop -- good that it's steel -- we encountered not one, but two cruise ships along with the albatross right at Cape Horn. That reminds me of -- it's a sign of the times, more access to more people to remote ocean sites. I think there's a good part about that, and the good part is more individuals, whether they're tourists or scientists, are getting to see firsthand the conditions of the oceans. We also, by the way, saw albatross, dolphins and penguins you'd naturally expect to accompany you there.

Quickly on four important ocean governance issues -- and there certainly is going to be overlap here, but just to underline passage of the Law of the Sea -- simply put, it's time to take our seat at the table, ladies and gentlemen, especially in light of the summer opening of the northwest and northeast passages due to melting sea ice. So why not, and why not this year? Secondly, fisheries -- protein is another way to look at them. One billion people worldwide depend upon protein from the seas, and many of them are very, very poor. As for wild-caught seafood -- and as I understand it, wild-caught and farmed products of the sea are now in about a 50-50 relationship. I think we just passed that 50-50 last year, if I have it right. There are problems of sustainable harvesting, bi-catch, habitat destruction, a compromised food web -- you call it a web, not a chain, as I've learned -- and how these matters will become subject to international monitoring or oversight regimes, enforcement, such as onboard transponders, air surveillance, et cetera. The admiral spoke well about that.

As for farmed seafood, there are issues of pen crowding, medication, habitat impairment, protein depletion, escapement, and the impact on wild stocks, as well, of course, as impacts on human health. Chile would've had far less economic disruption in its salmon farming industry, I'm sure, if they had employed the best practices learned from Norway and Scotland, though the practices there are certainly not yet perfect. Third, coastal pollution and water quality. We should extend regulatory authority from fresh water to near-shore saline waters, including estuaries, bays, and tidal rivers, because both point source and non-point source pollution have maximum negative impact on coastal populations, both the human and the marine kinds.

Finally, under issues list, acidification and CO2 deposition. Interestingly, in the Pew Oceans Report -- I brought a copy of it in case I need to refer to it -- that issue was not mentioned and the report was completed seven years ago, and yet it may be the biggest issue before us. So we must underline the importance of reducing CO2 emissions worldwide on behalf of the oceans, not just the land. There has been a 30 percent increase in ocean acidity since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and a sea change documents these facts and suggests solutions. Acidification is a threat because, as have already heard, when CO2 mixes with ocean water, the resulting carbonic acid inhibits the formation of shell-bearing sea life, including vital small organisms at the bottom of the food web.

Just a word about the importance of not getting caught in the nets of the climate skeptics. Whatever one may feel about the pace and direction of climate change and global warming, the fact is that the oceans are challenged by factors that are not just about temperature, and I've named them: declining fish stocks, coastal pollution, acidification, and the need for international oversight of all of the above. So if you're having a conversation with someone who starts as a climate skeptic, you need to remember that those issues are not warming-dependent. Others certainly are. It is vital that advocates for ocean health emphasize that rapid changes in ocean conditions worldwide are challenging the viability of the ocean's living systems, and we must work together locally, regionally, nationally, and certainly internationally to ensure that ocean health is high on the public agenda for reasons of social, economic, environmental and human health.

Finally, a quick word about philanthropy NGOs and ocean health, whereas at least 95 percent of philanthropic dollars for the environment are directed at terrestrial issues. No more than a nickel of every greenback goes to support the marine environment. Sailors for the Sea and other ocean health NGOs represented here tonight are determined to enlarge the size of the pie directed toward environmental philanthropy and to enlarge the share that the oceans receive. High net worth sailors and other recreational boaters are, after all, the beneficiaries -- Jack Kennedy was one -- of our beautiful oceans. And it's our belief that it's time these people stood forward to become stewards of the resource they love so well.

So thank you, Jim Clark, an active boatman and principle backer of The Cove, winner of last night's Oscar for best feature length documentary. It looks like our great blue issue finally scored on the red carpet. (Laughter.) Thank you.


TOM FRY: Well, Scott, thank you so much for having us here, and it's amazing to be on a panel like this. You know, when you're last on a panel like this, I'm always reminded of the politician who said, you know, everything's already been said, but not everyone's said it. So I'm going to go ahead and say it. But I think we really have covered a lot of the waterfront here already. I was reminded of seeing our friend Sylvia Earle, who opened the initial presentation. She was talking to one of the executives at Google one day, and he was touting how exciting it was to have Google Earth, and she said, well, it's not very exciting to me. First off, it's misnamed. It ought to be called Google Land. It only takes care of one eighth of the whole world. And so I think that's what got them started on trying to look at ways to look also at the ocean the way we've tried to look at what's going on onshore. It's the same kind of issue in terms of the dollars spent on ocean health and ocean issues.

Quick information on who we are. The National Ocean Industries Association is a Washington trade association that represents about 250 companies who are involved in offshore energy development. It's everything from people who produce oil and gas, people who drill for oil and gas, people who do -- companies that do environmental work in the ocean, geophysical companies, but it's also folks involved in the renewable industry, folks involved in wind and wind renewables, in the ocean, and obviously, at some point in time we'll also be involved with folks who are looking at other ways to use the ocean to create energy.

Now, I have to tell you that, you know, I'm somebody who is in the throes of retirement, and matter of fact, if you haven't gotten to know me thus far, probably don't waste your time. (Laughter.)

But I am fortunate that my replacement has arrived and is on the job and is here with us today. So your follow up on issues like this should go to my dear friend and my replacement, Randall Luthi. Where is Randall? Randall? Back here in the back. So Randall asked me why I smile all the time now. (Laughter.)

As we look at the oceans, and certainly the coast line, you know, more and more is taking place. But the oceans are vital to our economy. When you look at the amount of oil and natural gas that comes from the oceans, that's certainly a vital resource to fuel the engine that is this economy. Without affordable energy, we would not be able to have the kind of lifestyle and economy we have today. In offshore, we play an increasingly important role, and that's not to say that we're not going to do renewables, that we're not going to be involved with other kinds of energy. It is to say that you can't just stop in one -- on one day and no longer have the energy the company needs to run. They're going to need to be -- (inaudible) -- fuels -- some people think natural gas is a -- (inaudible) -- fuel -- in order to get to the point where we've got other kinds of renewables, whether it's solar, whether it's wind or wave or other kinds of -- or something we have yet to invent.

So we're going to be in this business for the foreseeable future as we look to how to change our economy. So the oceans really are an important part of this economic picture. There's so many things that are going on in the oceans today. You know, not only do you have the living resources, you have the minerals, you've got transportation, recreation, tourism, military activity, telecommunications. On all of these things, we're growing. It used to be that you could go out and kind of find an area where you could leave everyone else alone. I think we're now into something that's very much like what we've gotten used to on the land where it really is a multiple use area. There are going to be conflicts. And because of that, I think that's -- you know, there's a growing importance of governance and how we're going to go about governing the oceans.

We've got a patchwork of laws that are there. We've got, you know, something like, you know, 30 different agencies that do something relative to the oceans in terms of regulating it. You've got as many or more congressional committees that have a piece of the oceans. At some point in time we're going to have to figure out how we're going to bring all of these disparate interests together to look at how -- to do a better job of planning for the uses that are going to be taking place in the ocean. And that's why we're supportive of the concept of marine spatial planning. Marine spatial planning is a way to get at, you know, how we're going to resolve a number of these kinds of conflicts that continue and are going to continue to crop up in the oceans.

There are a number of statutes that are already on the books that do some -- do an awfully good job of involving all sorts of constituents, all sorts of different groups, whether it's states and NGOs and counties and anybody who wants to come to the table. A good example is the Marine Sanctuaries Act, another example that was cited by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. There's the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Doesn't mean you have to be in favor of oil and gas operation, but it does mean that there's -- there are processes out there that are already on the books and are working that are good planning efforts about how to manage the oceans.

So I hope as we look at ocean planning, we think about the laws that are already there in place. There's some great examples of where people have collaborated and collaborated in Alaska, the Gulf of Maine, other places to take care of issues and problems. But I think we worry and want to be mindful that we don't want to create just a new level of bureaucracy and a ‑- and some sort of entity that is going to be a super regulator of the oceans without having a place at the table. I think that if you're going to do this, our biggest concern is making sure that the economic interests are also represented as apart of that planning process.

Lastly, let me just pile on, on the Law of the Sea. The oil and gas industry got involved in this issue at the very beginning, has been supportive of Law of the Sea ratification, continue to support it in part of a large coalition of people that's everything from the environmental community to the Garden Club of America, who supports ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty. It's very important to -- as we look at the expanding uses of the oceans we also look at how we can, you know, expand our economic zone. Our 200 miles doesn't necessarily make a whole lot of sense. If we're not part of the Law of the Sea, we're not going to be able to -- especially in the Atlantic and the Arctic -- be able to cover areas that are apart, or could be apart of our economic zone unless we become apart of the treaty process. Countries now are making applications to take over some of these areas, and we're not there, and we can't say a thing about it, and so we need to get Law of the Sea done. So thank you. (Applause.)

BORGERSON: So I've prepared our first question on the Law of the Sea Treaty, but I think instead I'll punt that to somebody in the audience, if you'd like to. So we'll transition now the discussion, invite you to join in. Please wait for a microphone, and speak directly into it. Please stand, state your name and affiliation, and again, please keep questions, comments concise to allow as many members as possible to speak. So we'll start here, and then we have two in this row.

QUESTIONER: I'm Mitzi Worth. I'm with the Naval Postgraduate School. My husband, I believe, was the very first negotiator for the Law of the Sea back when Graham Claytor was secretary of the Navy. And I remember when he would come back from the U.N. and talk about the frustrations, but the real problem was getting support in Washington. I have a question. How do you tell this story to John Q. Public so John Q. Public understands all the piece parts so that they can, in fact, decide yeah, this is something we ought to do something about. I'm a great believer in writing children's books for adults that can be read at about a sixth grade level with lots of pictures. Whenever you have something this complicated, if you don't have pictures, you lose your audience. And then the question is, what do you want us as individuals to do? And I think that if you don't start spelling that out, it's just another story.

BORGERSON: If we could pick up a series of comments or questions here -- Myron, I think you -- can we get the microphone to Professor Nordquist, please?

QUESTIONER: Myron Nordquist, University of Virginia Law School. Blank question, kind of relates to hers in a point that Senator Whitehouse raised, and that is what does it take to motivate the administration to push for and the Senate to get to a vote? And I despair a little bit, because when I look back at the Exxon Valdez or pushing Klinefelter off the of the Achille Lero (ph) -- Lauro -- yeah -- lots of action happened after that. And do we need some kind of shocking crisis before our national leadership will do something? And I won't go on, but let's say Iran stops the enterprise and engages, let's say, in combat, in the Persian Gulf on the Straights of Hormuz and we say, well, transit passage -- that's a new thing in that treaty that both of us don't belong to, right? So that's not customary law. So if they go to the U.N. and -- at the Security Council, what kind of arguments are -- will the U.S. be able to make credibly?

BORGERSON: And Peggy, was it your hand raised, or her? No? No, okay.

QUESTIONER: My name is Bob McManus. I'm in private practice. I was the EPA representative on the Law of the Sea delegation in the 1970s. I'm a scuba diver. I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the first two questioners. I tend to be a little bit of a skunk at the picnic. All of the speakers, and including myself, are in favor of U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Treaty. I believe that the focus in one of the presentations, and of the film for that matter, is wrong. You're not going to persuade Senator Inhofe. You're not going to persuade Senator Vitter to come around and stop blocking U.S. accession to the treaty by telling them that the environment is important, and that we need to do something to protect the world's oceans. They probably don't disagree with that, but that is not where the opposition to this treaty is coming from. The opposition of this treaty is coming from people who believe that the treaty is part of the conspiracy for the United Nations to take over the operational control of the United States Navy.

And my question is largely rhetorical. When are we -- and if we're the choir -- when are we going to take them on, because I'm tired of reading it. (Laughter, applause.)

BORGERSON: Wow. (Laughs.) This doesn't necessarily have to be the Law of the Sea party, but, of course, I love Law of the Sea parties. I guess before allowing our panelists to respond, just a point of historical fact, that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has twice voted out the convention with a recommendation for the full Senate to offer its advice and consent, but it -- for -- maybe we should ask Senator Whitehouse -- procedural issues, but it never came up for floor debate in votes. So it came out of the committee two times, most recently from the chairman, who happens to currently be the vice president. So the treaty has procedurally left committee twice, but it's back there again with Chairman Kerry.

So with that, Senator Whitehouse, would you like to first respond or make a comment?

WHITEHOUSE: The room laughed about the conspiracy theory, but I get the mail. It's real. And the problem -- this is something I would very much like to be helpful on for a whole lot of reasons, not the least of which is that Senator Clairborne Pell, who was a personal mentor, was a great advocate for the Law of the Sea years ago, and I'd love to be able to bring his good work to a conclusion.

But among the scarce natural resources that we have to deal with is the scarce natural resource of Senate floor time, particularly when a faction of a party is going deliberately about burning up as much of it as they possibly can on minor, necessary procedural matters. So the notion of bringing up this treaty and having to go through all of the debate, go through the cloture on the motion to proceed, go through cloture on the ratification itself -- you're giving up a solid week of Senate floor time. And if you look out at our economy -- my state has 13 percent unemployment. If you look out at the lethal state of our health care system, on our fiscal prospects, and on its immediate injury to Americans -- I mean, you start stacking up the issues that hit home for Americans right now, and the Law of the Sea, frankly, doesn't rise very high.

So I'll be optimistic. I think the only way that it changes is when enough of the Arctic opens up that the oil and gas industries start to see their -- the -- our failure to exceed to that treaty as a very significant competitor disadvantage, and some of those senators who were mentioned begin to respond to those forces. It's as simple, I think, as that.

BORGERSON: Anyone else on the panel want to -- do I have to? Okay, anyone else like to say -- here?

QUESTIONER: What about the -- (inaudible) --

ALLEN: Here, let me -- there were a couple other points raised. I'll take a stab at it. Lot of people talked about telling the story and making people understand. There are more nexus and connections with the oceans than most people would believe, and everybody in this room understands that. The simple discussion earlier of point/non-point discharge related to estuaries, rivers that actually affect the ocean actually came up as a major point of discussion in their agency -- Task Force on Ocean Policy on where you should delimit regions for eco-based -- ecosystem-based management. I don't think there is a lot of knowledge about how inland waters in the entire web of water in the ocean, as was alluded to in the video, actually affect the oceans. The other thing is I don't think most people sitting in Iowa realize that most of the grain, the leaves -- is through our inland waterways. It goes down to either Baton Rouge or New Orleans and is taken out by bulk freighters, leaving their -- and that the waterways also fuel the economy in places so far inland you wouldn't even understand. That is the reason there is a provision, the Law of the Sea Treaty, for landlocked countries to benefit from that, which is one of the more controversial provisions as well -- related to seabed mining and the fees related to that, which is probably the second big conspiracy theory that's out there right now.

BORGERSON: David or Tom? Tom, did you want to speak --

FRY: Well, I was just going to say that the oil and gas industry has worked the senators in Texas and Louisiana very hard on this issue and has really been out front on this. It's always interesting. And I think I had this conversation with the secretary one time about the fact that, you know, everybody on the Hill blames the oil and gas industry, and -- or -- and then you go over to the White -- or you talk to us, and, you know, we'll say, well, you know, the Hill's not doing it, and then somebody else blames the White House and everybody's pointing fingers at each other. And we think there are enough votes there in terms of the counts that we've done, and think you can overcome, you know, any procedural issues. We think the votes are there, and we just need to get to a vote.

ALLEN: Yeah, I would say -- if I were to give you one -- somebody already mentioned that, the transit straight issue. It's probably the most misunderstood, most powerful concept in the Law of the Sea Treaty.

MR. : Yeah.

BORGERSON: Did you want to say something?

ROCKEFELLER: Yeah, just back to the point that was initially made about graphic representation, children's books and so forth. I think you're absolutely right. We've got to, in one way, simplify the complicated and dramatize the important. And I think this film tonight did that. I probably, given the conspiratorial problem, should not be signing any letters -- (laughter) -- answering the official questions, wouldn't you agree, Senator?

BORGERSON: It's kind of funny. I have a conspiracy theory discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Laughter.) (Inaudible.) On cue, Ambassador Negroponte, would you --


QUESTIONER: (Inaudible) -- are in the conspiracy.

BORGERSON: (Laughs.) Right.

QUESTIONER: (Inaudible.)

BORGERSON: It's coming, yeah.

QUESTIONER: Oh, thanks. I'm sure Myron Nordquist will agree with me when I say this. I think we're the two who were here in Washington when President Nixon promulgated the decision memorandum that launched us on the latest iteration of the Law of Sea negotiations back in the 1970s that McManus was on. So we'd like to see the fruits of our labor, and many of us have worked on this for years and years, including -- I had a stint in the Bureau Oceans Environment and Science for five years, which was created really at the instance of Senator Pell, to whom you referred, Senator.

But what I find interesting about this -- I wouldn't put all the freight on the oil and energy sector, although I would agree with you that they could be a very important factor in this. What really strikes me about this is that every time we've gone up -- and last time we got this from the committee back onto the floor at the end of the Bush administration -- are military come-ons so convincingly about the importance of ratifying this treaty, all the chairmen and all the members of the joint chiefs of staff. And it strikes me that -- I'm surprised that that does not have a compelling effect on the American public with -- given the standing and the credibility of our military establishment with the United States public. I just don't understand it.

ALLEN: Yeah, I would just say I've had several conversations with Admiral Mullen, Gary Roughead, Admiral Mullen when he was the chief of naval operations. There was no air gap between any of us on this, yeah.

QUESTIONER: (Inaudible) -- Jim Burrough, (ph) retired Navy. I agree with -- (inaudible). We've worked on this together for some years, and -- but my question is -- although I participated in the 50 million and 60 -- (inaudible) -- and some efforts since then. And my impression is to -- (inaudible). Does the recent quadrennial defense review support your position? In other words, are you happy with that? Does that have the priority that you need to support your objectives, which I think are right on track.

ALLEN: It does, and I do. I don't think this is an issue where everybody thinks this is a good idea. This is one of those things where we've got to pull us out of the "too hard to" locker, you know? (Laughs.) I mean, things are hard and they're difficult, and governing is complex, but I think there's a good enough cause for action where we've got to put some focus on this very, very well. And I would just add to the senator's comments. Claiborne Pell is a former Coast Guardsman and an icon for us. And there is a lot of work that's gone into this over the years. We've seconded officers permanently to the U.N. to work on this for, I think, 15 years, Coast Guard Lawyers to work on this.

It's just a matter of -- and right now it's a timing issue, I guess, on floor space according to the senator, but it's just -- the implications of some of the problems we're facing in the world -- and again, I keep going back to transit straights. Right now we have all this shipping that's heading up into the Arctic through the Bering Straights, and we are talking with the Russians right now about a traffic separation scheme that can separate north and southbound traffic to minimize the risk of an accident and all that sort of thing. We are actually operating under the provisions of the Law of the Sea Treaty. I don't know what's going to happen when it comes time to make our unilateral claim without the coverage of the Law of the Sea Treaty for the extension of the Continental Shelf beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone off the North Slope. I mean, you know, I don't know. I don't know how we're going to do that. I guess we will, yeah.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

WHITEHOUSE: To follow --

QUESTIONER: But you need --

WHITEHOUSE: To follow up on Ambassador Negroponte's point a little further, the defense and military and intelligence establishments are equally crystal clear on the hazard that climate change presents. And their endorsement of that worry and their elaboration of its consequences has equally negligible effect on those people.

BORGERSON: As a perfect segue to Sherry, actually, who helped champion a CNA study on climate change in national security --

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much, Scott, and thank you to all the panelists for your leadership in this area. And I want to pick up on the last question on the QDR, because I think it presents another opportunity with DOD's quadrennial defense review, the Homeland Security equivalent, and the State Department QDDR now in the works. I'm serving on the independent review panel for the QDR, and I see these issues are addressed in the QDR already, but they could be further highlighted, and I think that the Congress has an opportunity when it receives further testimony on these three agencies' programs to bring more emphasis to these. They are, of course, embedded in the global commons issues, but I don't -- and there's been a lot of effort to more mainstream -- these ocean governance, climate change, and Law of the Sea issues, and I think there's more momentum now than there's been in the past, but I think we have to -- I welcome your efforts or your thoughts, Admiral and Senator, about how we can get these for even higher priority now and use these upcoming strategy reviews to more mainstream these in the national security community.

ALLEN: Well, I think they are great opportunities, and as part of the working group -- (inaudible) -- they're discussion -- discussing this, so we are. I would note, especially in relation to the Arctic, there is an SPD that was signed -- 66, an HSPD-25 that is out there that provides policy. Maybe we just need to follow it.

BORGERSON: Senator, did you want to comment -- (inaudible)? Can we bring the microphone up? We'll do this side, and we'll switch to this side of the room next. Can we maybe get Glenn and Caitlyn, please?

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. Glenn Gerstell from Milbank. There's another argument I think that could be advanced in the -- for the Law of the Sea Treaty that relates to a circumstance that's actually fairly significant, relatively recent, and quite unknown, or relatively unknown, which is that submarine cables now supply the connectivity for the world's Internet. Most of voice traffic is still -- well, a good portion of voice traffic is carried by satellites, but submarine cables carry the overwhelming -- I don't know, 90 percent, probably more -- of the world's Internet traffic. And you could just imagine the dangers to national security and economic activity if these cables were cut, and the United States, for example, probably has only -- I don't know -- 15, 20 cables running between various continents, and a terrorist could easily get their hands on them. We've seen what happens when some countries like Taiwan suffered cuts due to earthquakes.

I wonder whether any of the panelists, in particular, Admiral Allen, who's, of course, charged with the security of this area, would have any comments on that.

BORGERSON: And Caitlyn, could we get your question or comment right -- (inaudible)? And I promise to move to this side of the room.

QUESTIONER: Caitlyn Antrim, Rule of Law Committee for the Oceans. As important as it is to have the military speak to the Senate about the importance of bringing Law of the Sea in, the real force behind this has always been the breadth of the support from the military, to industry, to environment, to tourism, to sport fishing, all of those groups together. All of those groups want the convention to go through, but they really require a focal point, some point to coalesce around, and it has to be the White House. I can tell you that there are groups willing to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the congressional fight, that there are CEOs who will come and testify and make office visits to individual senators, but they will not put their time in until they know that the administration is committed to getting it done.

So first, what can we do to make the administration realize the strength of the group? I mean, this group here represents perhaps 50 years of ocean community that represents all the groups that have been involved, and everyone here -- well, most people here would be willing to put and time effort in and bring their organizations in. So what can we do first to let the administration know that there's all this support, not just saying go do it, but we'll help, and then second, what do we need the administration to do to bring all these groups together into a team to move forward?

BORGERSON: In the interests of time, since we just have eight minutes left, I'd like to give each of the panelists an opportunity to offer concluding thoughts. If we could quickly pick up -- there's been some people patiently waiting on this side. If you could please make your comments succinct -- there's a hand here, and then there's one here. So --

QUESTIONER: Yeah, my name is Ken Yalo (ph) with Dartmouth College and also a former Foreign Service officer. Senator, I just wanted to ask you -- we've focused correctly on the Law of the Sea convention tonight, but I wanted to ask you in the committees on which you sit is there any possibility of bipartisan movement forward on some of these other issues that we've talked about, or is the gridlock so serious that nothing is possible?

BORGERSON: And then here.

WHITEHOUSE: It's a challenge. It's a real challenge.

QUESTIONER: Mr. Allen, my question may be somewhat repetitious, but back in the 1980s when I was in the State Department of the Economic Bureau, the big obstacle was the seabed mining part of the treaty, and after my watch -- well, we worked hard on it at the time. Eventually, those problems were solved, but this was years and years and years ago. I find it astonishing listening to this discussion tonight that we still haven't been able to ratify the treaty. And the closest answer I've heard as to why is that the Senate doesn't have time to deal with it. But this issue has dragged on for years and years and years. Where is the leadership from the White House? Where is the leadership from the Senate?

BORGERSON: So this wasn't intended originally to be the Law of the Sea party, but as the author of the report outside the door titled The National Interests and the Law of the Sea, I can't lie that it doesn't it doesn't warm my heart a little bit. (Laughter.)

So we have just a few minutes left. If I could start with you, Tom, and then we'll move down the table. If you could please -- you could speak to some of the questions and comments we heard, maybe offer any (clean ?) thoughts, and if I could beg that you do it, each speaker, please, quickly so we can all head off on our way this evening.

And thanks again, Tom, for joining us.

FRY: Can I talk about Law of the Sea? (Laughter.) I guess I'd like to associate myself with a number of the comments that were being made by the folks in the audience. I think there is going -- I want to say there's got to be a cataclysmic event to cause this to happen, but there -- it usually takes something to get people to move on an issue. I don't know what that would be. But the other thing is that I do believe that it's going to take a desire by the chairman of the committee and a desire by senior, senior people in the White House to get behind this, make phone calls and say we want this to happen. I think that's the way it will happen when it happens and not because we've done a good job of convincing the outliers.

ROCKEFELLER: Just quickly, I would say that the constituency of voters and sailors is a very important and very -- and not organized constituencies, one of the things Sailors for Sea is hoping to do. On the other hand, there are sailors and voters who are very visible, very closely connected to important political figures, and I think they can be -- they can play a role in this, and I'm happy to try to help organize them to the extent that they would be willing to be so.

ALLEN: Just a quick comment on cables. And I'm not the end all, be all legal authority on this. I think there are a couple of things that have -- more than a couple of things. I think there are certain things that have evolved in the environment since we've pretty much set the basic terms of this treaty, and it's so hard to go back and open something like this up if you want to get it ratified. But just like the comment was made that ocean acidification was something that wasn't even that well-known seven years ago. I think the implications of where cables are laid, access to the continental seabed in international commerce I think are things that are going to have to be continually re-looked at.

One of the things -- if we assume that at some point the treaty will be ratified, I think there's going to have to be a mechanism by which we can manage incremental changes associated with changes in the environment. Some of the ecosystem-based management, marine spatial planning things, while -- are alluded to that, are not really discussed there. So I guess one of the things we need to look -- as we move forward is how to make that more agile and whether or not there's a better way, an easier way to do that. If you look at the Safety of Life at Sea Convention and where IMO has come, and the body of work that they've developed, or ICAO, I think we need to look at -- if we assume that at some time it's going to -- that it will be ratified, I think we need to look at some kind of a more fluid, agile, flexible governance structure by which we can make changes and have it adapt to the oceans as the oceans change as well.

WHITEHOUSE: I would close with two comments. One is that if the Council on Foreign Relations and the group assembled here wish to push off this meeting with a renewed focus on trying to get the Law of the Sea moved -- Tom Fry's comments were, I think, particularly helpful, and I would be delighted to help do that. And this could be, I think, a very good resource group to help make that happen. It's obviously going to take some high-level effort, but that usually is achieved as a result of a lot of lower-level effort.

The second point that I want to make, since marine spatial planning has come up so often is that we in Rhode Island have done I think a particularly good job at developing marine spatial planning under the CZMA. Other states have resorted to special statutes. We have proceeded under the general federal statute. Our coastal resource has Management Council, and its executive director, Grover Fugate, have done a lot of leading here. And so I'm very, very encouraged to hear the constant emphasis on marine spatial planning, and I think it is a very valuable mechanism for addressing many of the issues that confront our oceans and coasts.

BORGERSON: And thank you, everyone, for making the Ocean Monitor your homepage tonight as soon as you get home -- (laughter) -- to your computers and for spending your time this evening attending this oceans event. Thank you, and thank you to our panel. (Applause.)







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