Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ocean Policy Report Card Blames Feds; Praises States

Feb 27: The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative released its annual U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card, praising state and regional initiatives while criticizing the lack of significant progress at the Federal level to commit adequate funding and affect meaningful ocean policy reform. This year’s report card expands to include global threats associated with climate change and highlights the enduring failure of the United States to accede to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, jeopardizing the nation’s ability to benefit from and conserve ocean resources of economic and ecological importance.

While the nation’s overall grade inched up to a C from a C- average in 2006, the report card challenges our nation’s leaders to implement and fund policies that will ensure the longterm health and vitality of our oceans and our coastal communities. Leon Panetta, co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative said, “Because states and regions have done much of the groundwork for ocean and coastal protection on the local level, the building blocks are in place. But they can only go so far without federal collaboration and support. This nation cannot successfully protect the oceans with one hand tied behind our back.”

According to the Report Card, states and regions continue to lead the way, maintaining an A- grade. The report card praises the introduction, passage and implementation of new ocean-related legislation in states such as New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. There has also been substantial regional progress in the Gulf of Mexico and along the West Coast. To realize the full potential of these improvements and ensure their long-term sustainability, the report card states, the federal government must step up its support of these state and regional efforts.

Admiral James D. Watkins, (U.S. Navy, Ret.) co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative ““We have been waiting for five years for federal policymakers to implement the recommendations of these commissions. Time is no longer a luxury. The economic and security concerns alone caused by their failure to act should be enough to warrant great concern and unified action from Congress and the administration.”

(NRDC) issued a statement saying, "Our oceans are in a state of silent collapse and we need our government to act now in order to reverse this trend. The longer we wait to address problems like pollution, habitat degradation and overexploitation, the harder and more expensive it will be to fix them. Millions of Americans depend on the oceans for work, for recreation, and for the food on their plates, which makes this a crucial economic and environmental challenge for our entire nation. We need the federal government to bring order to this lawless frontier through comprehensive measures that will reform the nation’s lack of a cohesive ocean policy. To keep the oceans clean and healthy, we need a National Healthy Oceans Act, such as Oceans-21 legislation (H.R. 21) that is currently pending in Congress. This law would coordinate national efforts to reduce pollution and protect ocean habitats so that beaches are clean, and fish and other ocean animals can thrive."

The Pew Environmental Group issued a statement saying, "Within the next several months, the National Marine Fisheries Service is expected to finally issue two proposed rulemakings that could help end overfishing in the United States. One aims to set catch limits based on best available science, the other attempts to increase public participation in fishery management decisions. These core components of the recently-reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary law that governs our nation's fisheries, need strong backing from the federal government. But, with a C plus for fisheries management reform, down from a B plus last year, the JOCI report card calls into question the administration's commitment to end overfishing."

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) applauded the Commission and said, "Several NOIA members have been involved in regional ocean governance efforts in the Gulf of Mexico; NOIA’s Board of Directors passed a resolution in support of calls for the United States to accede to the Law of the Sea Convention; and NOIA has worked closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as it develops the Integrated Ocean Observing System. The oceans are a vital economic, energy and environmental resource for the nation, and deserve a well-crafted, coordinated management regime that recognizes all these aspects. By issuing this annual report card, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative has been effective in keeping the attention of policymakers on the scope and interdependence of the challenges facing them.”

Access a release from the Commission (
click here). Access the details in the 20-page report card (click here). Access the Ocean Commission website for more information (click here). Access a statement from NRDC (click here). Access a statement from Pew Environmental Group (click here). Access a statement from NOIA (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 21 (click here). [*Water]