Today, President Obama made great strides in changing how we manage and protect our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. President Obama announced the National Ocean Policy and accompanying Marine Spatial Planning Framework, which is the result of a year-long process that started when the President convened the Ocean Policy Task Force in June of 2009.
Currently, our oceans are managed by 20 federal agencies, implementing more than 140 different and often conflicting laws, with no common vision, leading to a disjointed approach to ocean conservation and management. The President’s announcement today will prioritize ocean health while instituting ecosystem-based, science-guided management that ensures that healthy, productive and resilient oceans will continue to provide an abundance of resources, wildlife, and economic and recreational value for generations to come.
“As the BP oil disaster continues in the Gulf, it is clear that we need to change the way we manage our oceans. We need to put the oceans first. Every decision about the oceans affects fish, wildlife and water quality, while impacting coastal communities, fisheries, tourism and overall ocean health. By taking a comprehensive, science-based approach to ocean conservation and management with a strong National Ocean Policy, the health of the oceans will finally guide decision making.” said Beth Lowell, Oceana’s Federal Policy Director.
President Obama included specific recommendations to address the changing conditions in the Arctic in his announcement. The dramatic loss of sea ice in the Arctic is leading to large ecosystem changes and opening the region to potential fishing, shipping and oil and gas activities. Increased coordination of agencies, scientific research and spill response are needed to ensure the health of Arctic ecosystems and the Arctic peoples’ subsistence way of life.
Christopher Krenz, Oceana’s Arctic project manager, said the new framework is a sign that the Obama Administration recognizes the changing conditions in Alaska’s Arctic waters. “BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf is a stark reminder of what can happen when we push the boundaries of science and technology in our quest for diminishing resources,” Krenz said. “With icy waters, treacherous seas and remote location, drilling for oil in the Arctic poses at least as great a risk as deepwater drilling in the Gulf. This new policy will help keep Arctic waters and communities safe from similar tragedies.”
In developing its recommendations, the Ocean Policy Task Force drew on the recommendations from two separate blue ribbon panels and incorporated suggestions from 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 from around the country.