On June 16th, bi-partisan ocean leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the Ocean Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act (OCEANS-21). The original co-sponsors were Curt Weldon (R-PA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jim Saxton (R-NJ) and Tom Allen (D-ME). This is one of the first acts of Congress that seeks to implement recommendations from both the Pew Ocean Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP).
"Environmental Defense applauds the OCEANS-21 co-sponsors for their leadership to protect our oceans," said Environmental Defense Ocean program director David Festa. "We support this important legislation because it prioritizes healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems and sets a strong vision for ocean stewardship through improved conservation, education and science."
Our oceans are in serious decline and need our help now. Overfishing, coastal development and pollution, among other uses, are pushing our ocean systems to the brink of collapse. USCOP recently reported that if we don't make significant changes to the way we manage our ocean and coastal resources now, we may lose the goods and services they provide forever. The commission called for promoting ocean stewardship by reforming our oceans management approach, strengthening education, and enhancing science.
OCEANS-21 answers this call by rationalizing our ocean management system and prioritizing America's goal of healthy oceans and coasts. Specifically, the bill:
- unifies ocean management under a national oceans policy to protect, maintain and restore marine ecosystem health;
- streamlines and elevates federal oversight and decision-making with respect to ocean policy by strengthening the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our nation's lead civilian oceans agency, and improving executive coordination;
- enhances regional efforts with joint federal-state-tribal ocean management partnerships;
- provides $1.3 billion annually to the development and implementation of ecosystem plans that solve regionally-relevant priority problems;
- strengthens marine science by providing for a long-range research program focusing on marine biodiversity, ecology, and conservation; and
- improves ocean and coastal education for students at all academic levels as well as the general public.
"Now is the time to take action," said David Festa. "I hope that OCEANS-21 sparks a long-term commitment to ocean stewardship in the U.S. Congress and around the nation. It's what the public wants and deserves."
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