Great News For the Ocean!
This week, just days after BP finally capped the hemorrhaging well in the Gulf, President Obama issued an Executive Order delivering a first-ever National Ocean Policy (NOP). Instead of 20 different agencies administering more than 140 unique laws, often with conflicting purposes, in a piecemeal fashion, we will now have a guiding vision for all federal agencies with a mandate for protection and restoration of our coasts, oceans, islands and Great Lakes.
While the new policy can’t prevent a blow-out like the Deepwater Horizon it can prepare us much better to address such accidents, before they occur. The NOP is the result of a yearlong public process that considered input from many stakeholders including commercial fisherman, conservationists, scientists, the recreational community, business owners and thousands of citizens. In San Francisco, over 500 people packed the hearing to weigh in on the question of how to best manage our shared ocean resources.
Now, a similar public and transparent processes will be used to map out the do’s and dont’s for coastal and marine plans across nine regions. How will we address the growth of shipping and increased risks of oil spills along the coast of California? How will we manage increased development and shipping in the Arctic, opened up as result of climate change? The holistic approach outlined in the NOP will rely upon sound science to answer such questions and is designed to reduce conflicts among ocean users while maintaining healthy ecosystems.
At this moment, when the nation is reminded that our addition to fossil fuels has dire consequences, the new ocean policy will help us understand how to develop renewable energy sources like wave and wind power while assuring that we protect the health and resilience of the ocean. It’s time to usher in a new era of conservation for our struggling oceans. Good work Mr. President!