New National Ocean Council Could Help U. S. Better Prepare for Ocean Emergencies and Protect Endangered Sea Turtles

Today President Obama unveiled his plans for a new National Ocean Council that would implement a broad national ocean policy designed to better protect, maintain and restore our nation’s oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. While a focused and coordinated federal approach to managing the oceans may not have stopped the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it could have allowed Obama to take charge sooner and his administration to be better prepared to manage an ocean emergency.

President Obama is expected to issue an Executive Order to implement the new national ocean policy soon. The policy is heavy on planning across government agencies with marine spatial planning and ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention as the most specific recommendations. Download the Final Recommendations here.

“Making the oceans a national priority should reverse the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach that dominates ocean policy,” said Teri Shore, Program Director for Turtle Island Restoration Network in Olema, Calif. “Combined with the BP Oil Spill disaster, it’s clear that it’s time to take ocean protection seriously. Endangered sea turtles won’t survive otherwise.” Read about our past actions on the National Ocean Policy here.

The national ocean policy is the culmination of a year-long process that started when the President convened the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force in June of 2009. The National Ocean Council will be comprised of federal agencies that plan to meet for the first time this summer. The highest priority appears to be a marine-spatial planning process that aims to overlay ocean uses and prioritize zones for various activities.

“The fact that the Obama administration embarked on the development of a National Ocean Policy a year ago shows the desire they have to provide better long-term management and ecosystem protection,” said Pete Stauffer, Ocean Ecosystem Project Manager for the Surfrider Foundation.

“We commend President Obama’s leadership and now call on Congress and our Great Lakes and coastal state governors to support the National Ocean Policy and work to implement the policy,” adds Marjorie Ziegler, Executive Director for the Conservation Council of Hawai’i.

America’s ocean economy supports millions of jobs and contributes more to GDP than the entire U.S. farm sector. Commercial and recreational fishing alone generated $185 billion in revenue in 2006, supporting about 2 million jobs.

The Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force can be found at these White House links.

The proposed new ocean policy was applauded by the following ocean groups:

Blue Frontier Campaign – Conservation Council for Hawai’i – Conservation Law Foundation – Gulf Restoration Network –  Marine Fish Conservation Network
Northeast Great Waters Coalition – Ocean Champions –  Ocean River Institute
Pacific Environment – People for Puget Sound – Restore America’s Estuaries
Surfrider Foundation – Turtle Island Restoration Network