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REPORT HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR EXPANDED OCEAN FUNDING, STRONGER MARINE PROTECTION

NEW YORK (February 1, 2006) -- A new report released this week highlights important steps New York should take to protect and restore valuable fresh and saltwater resources. The findings buttress Governor Pataki's decision to include a new Ocean and Great Lakes Category in the expanded Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) proposed in his recently announced budget and encourage increased attention to the health of our state's water resources, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report compiles results from the Governor's New York State Ocean and Great Lakes Symposium, which was attended by a diverse group of more than 100 marine resource experts along with representatives from business, academic and research institutions, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations. The daylong event sought better ways to protect New York's ocean, bays, and Great Lakes, which together support thousands of jobs in hundreds of communities across the state.

In a letter to legislative leaders, NRDC and a dozen other groups yesterday voiced support for Pataki's proposal, and urged the Legislature to increase the funding for this new category to $10 million and expand the overall EPF to $200 million.

"New York's ocean and coastal areas supply us with good food, great recreation and valuable jobs. But these resources are in a state of silent crisis caused by pollution, destruction of productive marine habitat, and overfishing," said Sarah Chasis, director of NRDC's Ocean Initiative.

More than 40 percent of New York's important estuary and bay waters are impaired or threatened, and many of New York's most important commercial and recreational saltwater fish and shellfish are either depleted or are being harvested at unsustainable rates. The total weight of seafood landed in New York State is only a quarter of what it was 20 years ago.

In addition to explicitly highlighting the need for an expanded EPF, the report identifies a number of other key policy actions the state should take, including incorporating more comprehensive resources management approaches; creating a system to manage New York's increasing offshore energy development pressures; and better policies to protect and restore marine habitats and the species that live in them. The report also calls for a permanent interagency Ocean and Great Lakes Council to help coordinate state decision-making and achieve these various objectives.

"Governor Pataki has taken an important step to protect these resources by holding the Symposium and creating a new Ocean and Great Lakes Category in his budget," said Chasis. "We encourage the Legislature to build on this financial commitment and to embrace the ideas for strengthened ocean management outlined in the Symposium report."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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