The White House today announced the creation of a unifying national ocean policy that will protect key natural resources and ensure that sustainability will drive future economic activities offshore and close to shore.
“Our planet is 70 percent blue, and our national economic and environmental policies should keep it that color,” said Chris Mann, senior officer for the Pew Environment Group. “Whether it’s recovering from the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, reducing polluted runoff or protecting important marine and coastal habitat, we have a lot of work ahead of us to achieve that goal.”
The new National Ocean Policy provides a way to unify the more than 140 federal laws and dozens of federal agencies that have some jurisdiction over U.S. waters in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. A National Ocean Council will coordinate this initiative and implement a coastal and marine planning system that will identify areas where industrial uses make sense and others that should be protected from such development. More thorough and balanced assessment of the costs and benefits of marine activities will lead to better siting decisions for offshore development, minimization of risks to fish and wildlife and better management of unavoidable risks.
The oceans play a critical role in the U.S. economy. In November 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that:
- Coastal and marine waters support over 28 million jobs, while providing tourist destinations for 189 million Americans each year;
- Trans-ocean shipping contributes over $700 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product while employing 13 million Americans; and
- U.S. consumers spend over $55 billion for fishery products annually.
“Seven years ago, the Pew Oceans Commission called for a conservation-oriented national ocean policy,” said Mann. “The policy announced today provides a strong framework for protecting, maintaining and restoring our oceans, from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico.”