US OCEANS COMMISSION SUBMITS FINAL REPORT TO CONGRESS


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Posted by on September 26, 2004 at 18:05:49:

US OCEANS COMMISSION SUBMITS FINAL REPORT TO CONGRESS; OCEAN POLICY NETWORK CALLS FOR EXPEDITIOUS CONSIDERATION AND ACTION: On Monday, 20 September, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) submits its final report to Congress. Entitled, An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, the report was developed after three years of hearings and deliberations. USCOP released its draft report on 20 April (see Sublegals, 9:11/09); it followed by 10 months the release in June 2003 of the Pew Oceans Commission report (see Sublegals, 7:23/01; 7:20/09; 7:06/02). The two oceans reports, one privately funded (Pew Charitable Trust) and the other Congressionally created by Congress, the Oceans Act of 2000, are the first comprehensive reviews of the nationís ocean policy in over 35 years, since the Stratton Commission of the late 1960ís. The findings of the two commissions were similar; USCOP made 212 recommendations in its 610-page final report. By law, U.S. President George W. Bush now has 90 days to respond to the recommendations.

For a summary of the changes USCOP made in response to the feedback it received on its preliminary report (based in part on the comments of 37 governors), go to: www.seachangecenter.org.

The 16-member USCOP was appointed by Bush but, unlike the Pew Oceans Commission, did not include any fishing representatives. Pat White, the President of the Maine Lobstermenís Association, and Pietro Parravano, president of the Institute for Fisheries Resources and former PCFFA President, were the two commercial fishermen who served on the Pew Commission. Many of the USCOP proposals, including the creation of a National Ocean Council in the White House and other structural adaptations, more ecosystem-based management, and a multibillion-dollar money stream to finance the changes over the long term echoed recommendations made by the Pew Commission.

From the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico to the collapse of cod stocks in New England to the loss of deep sea coral habitat in Alaska, the health of the nationís oceans is at risk and the trend is not good. The fact is, Americaís oceans are in trouble. Every year, our oceans are increasingly impacted by industrial, agricultural, and urban runoff; a growing coastal population; and increasing dependence on fishing and aquaculture, wrote two Pew Commissioners, Mike Hayden, former Governor of Kansas, and IFRís Pietro Parravano in an op-ed this past week. After independently studying these issues, two commissions have now concluded that our oceans are indeed in peril. Change is needed in our nationís ocean policy to ensure long-term employment for fishermen, tourism, and coastal economies. On that point both the Pew Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy agree. But these recommendations are only a starting point in a national discussion on this critical issue.

The final report marks a significant achievement by those tasked by Congress to study the health of our oceans and to deliver a vision for steering our ocean policy into the 21st Century, said Lee Crockett of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, a national coalition of conservation organizations and commercial and recreational fishing groups. The future health of our oceans rests in the hands of Congress and the President; the Network urges them to take immediate action to address this challenge. Whoever is President during the next four years will determine the course of ocean management for generations.

The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee scheduled a hearing for 21 September to hear a presentation from USCOP Chairman Admiral James D. Watkins, USN (Ret.), and remarks from members of Congress and governors. A copy of the USCOP final report can be found at: www.oceancommission.gov; a copy of the Pew Oceans Commission report and recommendations can be found at: www.pewoceans.org.

On the eve of the submission of the final USCOP report to Congress, The Ocean Policy Network sent a letter to the President urging his expeditious consideration and action on the USCOP recom-mendations. This is a key time in American history for the oceans, wrote the group that included signatories from ocean research institutions, the maritime industry, conservation groups and the fishing industry (e.g., PCFFA and the Institute for Fisheries Resources). The letter continued saying there is now a widespread consensus that our ocean and coastal areas must be managed in an integrated and sustainable manner, urging immediate action to:

  1. Articulate a national ocean policy and underlying guiding principles;
  2. Elevate ocean affairs to the highest policy level and harmonize the work of the many federal agencies involved in oceans; and
  3. Significantly increase funding for oceans.

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, as well as the Pew Oceans Commission before it, has provided a detailed blueprint for much-needed improvements to ocean and coastal policy, science, and management, said the letter to the President. As a diverse group of nongovernmental organizations and individuals involved in all sectors of the ocean community, we encourage you to engage in full and open discussion of the detailed recommendations made by the Ocean Commission to achieve the necessary changes to policy through both executive and legislative action. A copy of The Ocean Policy Network letter is available on the PCFFA website at: www.pcffa.org.



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