Comprehensive Ocean Protection Plan Introduced

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President Barack Obama launched a plan last week to further protect the oceans, U.S. coasts and Great Lakes from environmental threats including pollution and overfishing.

The President has established an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, led by Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley, to recommend a national policy, as well as the framework for implementation of the policy, within 90 days for the protection and restoration of these waters.

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The Task Force will make coastal and marine spatial planning recommendations, looking at development activities including offshore drilling. Photo: Stock xchng

President Obama stressed the importance of a unifying framework under a clear national policy to succeed in protecting the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.

Current criticism with ocean management and protection is the lack of a comprehensive national policy and Federal agency coordination, as there are currently 140 U.S. laws and 20 different agencies governing our oceans.

In a proclamation last week declaring June 2009 National Oceans Month, President Obama declared, “…we are taking a more integrated and comprehensive approach to developing a national ocean policy that will guide us well into the future. This policy will incorporate ecosystem-based science and management and emphasize our public stewardship responsibilities.”

Within 180 days of the President’s June 12 memorandum, the Task Force shall develop a recommended framework for effective coastal and marine spacial planning. Spacial planning is increasingly necessary and important as we face more offshore energy and development proposals.

A recent study by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) found that humans are impacting western U.S. coastlines in a significant way. The coasts were affected by 10 to 15 different human activities, from land-based sources of pollution to ocean-based commercial activities, annually in each spot surveyed.

California is already taking a major stand in reducing its pollution. In late April, the state passed a bill that will ban single-use, take-out polystyrene containers. According to Environment California, plastic is a major problem along the coast. In some areas, there is six times more plastic than zooplankton.

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