Common Water: Come Together Over Coasts & Oceans

The call to support healthy coasts and oceans is uniting the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic, environmentalists and scientists in Louisiana with schoolchildren in Hawaii, and even Sherman’s Lagoon characters and Voodoo donuts! Our ocean and coasts now need your voice, too.These environments support an astonishing diversity of life and are critical to our well-being. The Gulf of Mexico, considered the “Mediterranean of the Americas,” supports untold numbers of species many unique and found nowhere else , includes half the wetlands in the United States, and is home to one of the most productive fisheries in the world.Unfortunately, the Gulf and all of our nation’s coastal and marine resources are managed by 20 different federal agencies and 140 different and often-conflicting laws and regulations. This tangled management isn’t effectively addressing the threats facing our coast and oceans, from unsustainable fishing to wetlands loss to water pollution.In a historic first, the Federal government is developing a national policy to protect, restore, and maintain our ocean and coasts. The process began last June, when President Obama created an Interagency Federal Ocean Policy Task Force to formulate a first-ever, science-based national ocean, coast, and Great Lakes policy. The Task Force then held six public hearings throughout the country stopping in New Orleans in October to hear local comments inform the national framework. In December, the Task Force released its Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spacial Planning, and we’re nearing the close of the final window to offer public comment to support the creation of a unifying, ecosystem-based, conservation-conscious ocean policy.Scientists, conservationists, and environmentally minded citizens from around the country have rallied to support this visionary approach to managing our ocean and coastal systems. To help realize the full promise of a strong national ocean, coastal and Great Lakes policy, click here to submit a public comment.Recently, GRN and friends represented the Gulf during the national day of action Wear Blue for Oceans by bringing scientists and citizens together and gathering in blue outside the Audubon Aquarium. Local coastal wetlands expert Dr. Denise Reed of UNO, GRN’s Executive Director Cynthia Sarthou, and University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Marine Science’s Dr. Steven Lohrenz spoke to the 30+ blue-wearing citizens about what a science-based national ocean policy can accomplish for the Gulf of Mexico. Delta the Dolphin of the America’s Wetland Estuarians joined our speakers in supporting healthy coasts and oceans click play below to see brief Q&A between the panel and Times-Picayune’s Chris Kirkham. Wear Blue for Oceans was a huge success citizens throughout the nation wore blue to support a strong national policy that protects, maintains, and restores our coasts and ocean. Check out the pictures — Delta the Dolphin in NOLA, sharks and sea turtles at City Hall in SF, fish outside the White House in D.C., and the tasty ocean scenes of the renowned Voodoo Donuts of Portland! It’s all in the Wear Blue for Oceans gallery (link here). To read about the New Orleans event in the Times-Picayune, click here.To see and hear the entire New Orleans Wear Blue for Oceans event, click here it’s all on YouTube!And finally, some quotations from our Gulf experts…remember to add your own by submitting a public comment!”The time when the oceans could be treated as an inexhaustible resource has long passed. We now recognize that our oceans are fragile and limited in their capacity to withstand the effects of human activities. Indeed, we have already vastly altered ocean ecosystems in ways that include overfishing, loss of critical habitat, introduction of invasive species, and diminished water quality. And these problems will continue to worsen if we do not embrace an ocean policy that seeks to balance human use of our oceans with sustainability and stewardship.” -Dr. Steven Lohrenz, University of Southern Mississippi, Professor and Chair of Marine Science”If you look at the deep waters of the Gulf, you have a lot of agencies that have conflicting authority. You have MMS; you have the Coast Guard; you have the National Marine Fisheries Service…Those three agencies let’s just take those three [as examples] don’t really communicate with each other and they often have conflicting purposes for an area. The Coast Guard may want to allow somebody to build a navigation canal, somebody else may want to put an oil and gas pipeline, and then NOAA or National Marine Fisheries Service may feel that that’s a critical area for a species. And in the past, there’s been no actual framework for them to sit down and hash out…the actual framework for making sure that the resource is protected.” -Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director of Gulf Restoration Network”The river is our greatest resource for (coastal) restoration and yet we have all kinds of different things that we want to do with it. But we have not yet found a way to have a conversation about how we use the river for restoration, continue to navigate on the river and continue to protect ourselves from riverine flooding in Louisiana. This is the opportunity to do that, and the fact that the federal government is coming out with this (national ocean policy) is a way to get that on the top shelf.”-Dr. Denise Reed, Professor and Interim Director of Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, Department of Geology and Geophysics.

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