June 13, 2009

Task Force To Draft First Ever US Ocean Policy

President Barack Obama announced the creation of a high-level Ocean Policy Task Force on Friday that will craft a national policy for sustainably managing the oceans. Such a policy would be a first for the U.S., and the move received widespread praise from environmentalists who called it long overdue.

"We are taking a more integrated and comprehensive approach to developing a national ocean policy that will guide us well into the future," said Obama in an announcement declaring June "National Oceans Month."

"Our nation's economy relies heavily on the oceans ... They support countless jobs in an array of industries including fishing, tourism and energy," Obama said.

Nancy Sutley, who as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality serves as Obama's main environmental policy adviser, will lead the new task force. It will consist of senior policy-level officials, and will draft several recommendations along with a "comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem-based" framework for sustainable use of the nation's oceans, Great Lakes and coasts.

"This is something that two U.S. national commissions have called for," Sarah Chasis, director of the Ocean Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told the AFP news agency.

"The Pew Oceans Commission and the US Commission on Ocean Policy in 2003 and 2004 came out and said we really need an ocean policy to bring together all the disparate authorities that manage our oceans and have a cohesive vision of what we want for the oceans and how to manage them," she said.

The U.S. has the largest ocean area of any nation in the world, and manages these resources through 20 agencies and some 140 laws.

Obama's plan would consolidate the disparate authorities and laws and concentrate attention on the issues facing the oceans, their resources and those who oversee them.

"There's increasing recognition of the problems of the ocean. It's three-quarters of our planet; it's something we depend on for the air we breathe, the food we eat, for jobs, recreation," Chasis said.

"There's more scientific understanding of the ocean: it's becoming more acidic with global warming and countries are beginning to understand the seriousness of the threat."

"This action by the president is a step in the right direction for the U.S."


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