President To Sign National Ocean Policy

Today the President is expected to sign the nation’s first-ever National Ocean Policy. The GRN applauds the Obama Administration’s announcement. This policy is the culmination of a year long process that started when the President convened the Ocean Policy Task Force in June of 2009.The Task Force consisted of 24 federal agencies from across the span of the government. Many GRN members and allied organizations weighed in to provide valuable input as to why a policy is necessary and what should be included.The National Ocean Policy provides a beacon of light for all federal agencies and a needed mandate for protection and restoration of our coasts, oceans, islands and Great Lakes. Coastal and marine spatial planning helps to protect our oceans and coasts while balancing sustainable ocean uses – it is good for the environment and good for our economy.In developing a policy, the Task Force drew on the conclusions of two separate blue ribbon panels and started a process that included six listening sessions across the nation, hundreds of meetings with stakeholders and ocean user groups, two public comment periods and thousands of comments from citizens and ocean users around the country.The United States has always relied on the abundance of resources, economic value and natural beauty of our oceans and coasts, but we have not always managed our oceans with the care they deserve. Clearly, the BP drilling disaster exemplifies this mismanagement, and mismanagement may be an understatement.The GRN believes that a National Ocean Policy is necessary to provide direction and coordination for federal agencies and a needed mandate for the protection and restoration of our coasts, oceans and Great Lakes.The National Ocean Policy must be an integral part of the Administration’s response to the BP drilling disaster to ensure better environmental protection and reduction of cumulative impacts to ocean and coastal ecosystems.Nothing has highlighted our nation’s dependence on healthy oceans and coasts like the current BP oil disaster. As the devastation continues, it has become clear that the United States can and must do better in the way we protect and manage our oceans.While an ocean policy would not have stopped the BP disaster from occurring, a strong National Ocean Policy would have improved the situation by providing necessary oversight and coordination in advance of a disaster, improved protection of ecosystems and natural resources and created an integrated approach to management that includes enforcement of the varying ocean uses.Again, GRN applauds the Administration for its announcement, acknowledges that it is a good start, but recognizes that it is only a start. We will continue to watch for developments as things continue to move forward and, as always, will keep you informed. Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for the GRN.

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