Oceana today praised the introduction of a major bill in the U.S. Congress that would fundamentally restructure ocean management and protection. Oceana called the bipartisan legislation – along with a battery of other recently introduced ocean protection bills – critically important because they address in-the-water changes such as controlling cruise pollution, protecting deep sea corals, reducing destructive fishing practices, and establishing ecosystem-based ocean management.
The Oceans Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act (known as the Oceans-21 bill) was introduced today by the four bipartisan co-chairs of the House Oceans Caucus: Reps. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Jim Greenwood, R-Pa., and Tom Allen, D-Maine. The bill would provide a national vision for protecting, maintaining and restoring the oceans and institute an ecosystem-based approach to ocean management. It also would create national ocean science and education programs to improve management decisions and heighten public awareness of the importance of healthy oceans and coasts.
“Without a doubt, this bill lays an important foundation for the creation of a new, better way of managing our oceans,” said Ted Morton, federal policy director for Oceana. “Oceans-21 builds upon the best recommendations of the U.S Commission on Oceans Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission. As both commissions pointed out, our oceans are in deep trouble. This bill, the other important ocean-protection bills - and the problems of the oceans – demand serious congressional attention.”
Morton was referring to two bills in particular: One, called the Deep Sea Coral Protection Act - also introduced today by Reps. Greenwood and Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., as a companion bill to one introduced by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, R-N.J. earlier this year - would keep the destructive bottom trawling and dredging out of underwater virgin forests of deep sea corals, some of which are centuries old. The other bill (H.R. 4101/S. 2271), introduced earlier this year by Rep. Farr in the House and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., in the Senate, would prohibit cruise ships from dumping sewage or wastewater within 12 miles of U.S. shores and require state-of-the-art treatment for any waste dumped between 12 and 200 miles offshore.
“These bills are much-needed CPR for the oceans, which are collapsing after decades of overfishing, rampant pollution and poor management,” said Morton. “We have a real and rare opportunity to do some good here. At the very least, this legislation will start an important dialogue about what we need to do to conserve, protect and restore our oceans.”
Morton added: “The strong bipartisan backing of the Oceans-21, deep sea coral protection, and other ocean conservation bills underscores the broadening consensus of the need to protect ocean habitats, wildlife, and waters. We hope this is the start of a sea change for ocean protection.”