CI Announces Support for New U.S. Ocean Policy

7/20/2010

Calls it, Positive First Step in Better Ocean Management

Arlington, Virginia – Monday’s announcement of a new U.S. National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes (National Policy) should be a turning point in the country’s management of its coastlines and seas, and represents an important first step for improving global ocean health. That was the reaction of Dr. Gregory Stone today, Chief Ocean Scientist for Conservation International (CI).

“Simply put, this is a monumental moment in ocean management by the United States, and a very positive step in the right direction for ocean health,” said Dr. Stone. “It could not have come at a more critical time for our oceans, which have been under siege from devastating, long-term threats that include the depletion of fisheries, habitat destruction, toxic pollution, and rising temperatures.”

The new national ocean policy, outlined by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and authorized by Presidential executive order, provides a framework for the establishment of a new National Ocean Council (NOC) led by representatives from 24 federal agencies, and calls for the federal government to consolidate management of its ocean resources under one, holistic vision. It also proposes marine spatial planning practices which consider the variety of ways Americans use the oceans, from tourism and leisure to industry and fishing, and puts science at the core of decision-making.

Nine unique regional planning areas are designated around U.S. coastlines said President Obama’s CEQ Chair, Nancy Sutley, who made the announcement in a call with reporters.

Development of the new National Ocean Policy was launched in June of 2009, when President Obama sent a memorandum to the heads of Federal agencies establishing an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force led by the White House CEQ, and charging that Task Force with proposing policy recommendations.

CI’s Senior Vice President for Science + Knowledge Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, served as an advisor to the Task Force, and added his strong support to the creation of the new National Policy.

“With science-based planning and decision-making at the core of the President’s new ocean policy, it will now be possible to ensure that human activities are managed in concert rather than conflict, as well as safeguard the very ecosystems that we depend upon”, said Dr. Rosenberg, who was recently appointed as a member of the Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Panel (ORRAP), part of the new National Ocean Council structure.

Conservation International has been successfully piloting ocean planning strategies similar to the proposed U.S. regional planning areas, with its global Seascapes program. In the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape (ETPS), more than fifty partners that include fishers, conservationists, businesses and all the nations of the region, collaborate to ensure sustainable practices for the shared use of an area which includes the Galapagos Islands.
 
Other Seascapes promote good ocean governance in the Southwest Atlantic Abrolhos region off the coast of Brazil, as well as the Papuan Bird's Head region of Indonesia, and Sulu-Sulawesi in the heart of the Coral Triangle between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines where the world’s highest concentrations of marine biodiversity thrive. In all of these regions, the threats to ocean health are being scientifically assessed, and cooperatively managed with positive, measurable improvements.

“While we are concerned with protecting the ocean’s biodiversity, we also recognize the many different people who depend on its wealth of resources for their food security, transportation needs, climate protection and business development”, said Dr. Stone.  “The key is cooperative, long-term management.”

Just as better planning will go a long way toward improving the health of America’s coast lines, it is equally valuable to recognize the vital linkages between all of Earth’s oceans and seas. Threatened species like sea turtles, tuna, and whales migrate vast distances between nations to feed, reproduce, and maintain the ocean’s natural balance. Plastics accumulate from all over the world and are often ingested by fish throughout the food chain. Global fisheries continue to be nearly depleted, while industrial fishing fleets dump 84 billion pounds of marine bycatch that is accidentally trapped, wounded or killed in fishing gear, back into the sea each year. That amount represents more than all of the United States’ collective, annual meat consumption.

CI’s Vice President for U.S. Government Policy, Peter Jenkins, said:  “Conservation International looks forward to seeing the Obama Administration follow through on these recommendations, and turn policy into positive conservation action. But just as coordinated national management is key to success here in the U.S., the most important next step for the United States is to look beyond its own shorelines, and engage more cooperatively with other nations in the shared use of the high seas.”

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Conservation International (CI): Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the well-being of humanity. With headquarters in Washington, DC, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information, visit www.conservation.org