U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy Report: Oceans in Crisis

On April 20, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy released a preliminary report to the nation's governors for comment, marking the first federal review of ocean policy in 30 years. It is the second major, non-partisan report within a year to conclude the oceans are in crisis and need government leadership. Last summer, the Pew Oceans Commission called for "immediate reform of U.S. ocean laws and policies to restore ocean wildlife, protect ocean ecosystems and preserve the ecological, economic and social benefits the oceans provide."

"Protecting the oceans should be a priority at the highest levels. We need presidential leadership and a federal commitment to restructure our ocean management system and invest in ocean science, exploration and education," said Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp.

The 16-member commission, chaired by Admiral James D. Watkins, was mandated by the Oceans Act of 2000 to research and recommend a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy. The commission was authorized by Congress and appointed by President Bush.

The preliminary report is based on comments from public meetings, site visits, the latest scientific information on oceans and coasts and expert opinion. The report addresses a broad range of issues including ocean governance, marine resource stewardship, pollution, aquaculture and enhancement of marine science, commerce and transportation.

Governors and interested stakeholders have 30 days to comment on the preliminary report. Public comments will become official record and will be posted on the commission website, www.oceancommission.gov. The governors' comments will appear as an addendum in the final report that will make policy recommendations to the President and Congress.

"Governors have an opportunity to stand up and urge the president to champion the oceans," said Environmental Defense Oceans program manager David Festa. "We call upon them to issue effective and explicit commitments to ocean restoration."

Environmental Defense strongly advocates fundamental ocean reform measures that will:

  • Protect fragile ocean habitats through the use of protected areas and other tools.
  • Transform failing fisheries into sustainable ones to guarantee safe and abundant seafood.
  • Reduce dead zones by curbing polluted runoff that creates lack of oxygen and kills marine life.
  • Enforce conservation laws to protect ocean wildlife and essential ecosystems.
  • Protect our shores from oil by maintaining a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling.
  • Explore ocean ecosystems by doubling federal investment in ocean science, exploration and education over next 5 years.

"Most of all, we must protect the full spectrum of ocean wildlife and the ecosystems that sustain them by aggressively enforcing existing laws and implementing new coordinated approaches," said Festa. "This can be accomplished by improving coordination of the hodgepodge of laws and agencies overseeing ocean management."

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