The National Ocean Policy Turns Three

With this week of unrelenting heat, many of us are daydreaming about cool ocean breezes and hoping to get away to the beach for the weekend. From the shoreline, we rarely see much happening beyond the breaking waves. But the reality is that our ocean is facing increasing industrialization. Tomorrow, on its third anniversary, we can celebrate the National Ocean Policy which safeguards the health of our oceans and coasts now and into the future.

Ocean stewardship has improved significantly over the past decade, thanks in part to improvements in fisheries management. Major issues remain, however, including the loss of productive marine habitat and the emerging challenges posed by ocean acidification. Thankfully, today, we have the National Ocean Policy, guiding us forward in efforts to better manage our ocean resources.

The National Ocean Policy is a common sense policy that coordinates all activities in our ocean, so that we can make smarter choices for healthier, more productive resources, and stronger coastal economies. The policy calls for all existing federal agencies that impact our oceans to work together to solve the most pressing issues facing ocean health and to help encourage sustainable use. This increased communication among the more than 20 federal entities that implement some 140 laws governing our oceans and coasts – now members of the National Ocean Council – is a huge improvement on past efforts.

The National Ocean Policy also calls for states and tribes to work together with the federal government and, with significant input from the public, help identify ocean areas that are appropriate for industrial use versus where habitat and wildlife need protection. Having a plan in place can help ensure that as additional development occurs in the ocean, important ocean habitats and wildlife – and the valuable jobs, food, and recreation that depend on them – are protected.

The National Ocean Policy turns three tomorrow. We have a lot to celebrate about its initial progress, including:

  • The National Ocean Council released their final ocean action plan of how federal agencies will together tackle some of the major issues facing ocean life, such as ocean acidification, habitat protection, water quality, and pollution.
  • Three regional planning bodies of states, tribes, regional fisheries council, and federal partners – in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Pacific Islands – have formed to ensure that we are being smart from the start in planning for increased offshore development. The Northeast Regional Planning Body recently wrapped up a round of public meetings to collect feedback on draft ocean planning goals, such as the need to protect, maintain, and restore healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems; promote compatibility among current and future ocean uses (like shipping, fishing, and offshore renewable energy development); and make the region’s ocean decision-making more effective and efficient. The recently established Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body is hosting a webinar on August 1 to discuss their efforts to date with the public.

This regional work represents an important step forward for ocean governance, since all of us – from federal agencies to states and tribes, from ports and renewable energy companies to fishermen and beachgoers – will now have a voice in developing a blueprint to protect our ocean health and provide for sustainable use.

America’s oceans are economic powerhouses. They generate more than twice the economic output of the nation’s farm industry and more than three times as many jobs. It’s the smart choice to ensure that they continue to function productively. The National Ocean Policy is critical to the protection of these resources – for us, and for the future.

All of us have an important role to play in achieving the National Ocean Policy, in particular in developing the regional plans. NRDC has been urging the planning bodies to reach out to a broad range of the public – from surfers and divers to fishermen and birders, from small business owners to conservationists – to make sure that everyone is engaged.

I encourage you to view and share a new video NRDC has developed describing smart ocean planning and to get engaged in the regional planning efforts in your area:

Also, please take a minute to fill out this online survey of Mid-Atlantic recreational users. Whether you are a beach goer, swimmer, beach wildlife viewer, surfer, kayaker, windsurfer, or diver, your opinion is important. The information will be shared with the planning body.

For more information on regional ocean planning, read NRDC’s Fact Sheet, “Healthy Oceans Need Smart Planning” and watch “Ocean Blueprint: Planning For Our Marine Environment”.


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