Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Supporting a National Ocean Policy

For many years, ocean lovers and environmentalists have been calling for a National Ocean Policy or unifying law for our oceans. This policy would comprehensively take into account the multiple factors and uses of the ocean in focusing on how to best utilize and conserve ocean resources. Such a law has been proposed by our federal legislature through Oceans 21 (HR 21), a bill that has been repeatedly introduced in the House to provide the governance framework for national ocean policy including strengthening the leadership for ocean governance. It has long been regarded as “Healthy Oceans Legislation” directed at benefiting the oceans and coasts of local communities on a nationwide scale, but it has failed to recieve the political backing it needed to pass through the House and Senate.

In response to the dearth of a unifying ocean policy, President Barack Obama charged the nation with a “stewardship responsibility to maintain healthy, resilient, and sustainable oceans, coasts and Great Lakes resources for the benefit of this and future generations."

Last June, President Obama created a 23-member Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to develop recommendations for a groundbreaking National Ocean Policy. The proposed Policy is designed to organize the more than 20 agencies and 140 laws and regulations that govern our ocean resources into a comprehensive and effective governance scheme. After several public hearings around the nation that generated overwhelmingly positive public comments in support of a National Oceans Policy, the Task Force issued their second report in December 2009 that further lays the groundwork for proceeding to coordinate the many uses of our ocean and coastal resources. This interim draft is open for public comments here. A final report that includes a broad national ocean policy framework, including marine spatial planning is due to be released toward the end of February.

So how can individual citizens show their support for the Obama Ocean Policy Task Force in their efforts to make a National Ocean Policy? Well, tomorrow, January 13th is "Wear Blue for the Oceans" day. Across the nation, supporters are rallying in over eight cities to tell the Obama Administration to support a national policy that protects, maintains and restores our oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes by Wearing Blue for the Oceans. Public rallies are scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Honolulu, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Galveston, Texas, Tampa, Florida, Seal Beach, California and New Orleans aiming to unite their voices and interests to make an impact on national policy. Even if you don't live in these cities you can simply take a picture of yourself wearing blue and upload with your statement. The Wear Blue for the Oceans website can tell you more about how you can participate.

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