Obama task force calls for National Ocean Council
The Obama administration in September released the first glimpse of a plan to strengthen the way the nation manages the oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes.
President Barack Obama's Ocean Policy Task Force-composed of 24 officials from myriad federal agencies- recommended creating a new National Ocean Council with power to coordinate and hold accountable federal agencies in conservation and marine planning efforts.
"Right now (ocean policy) is done on a piecemeal basis, one agency regulating fisheries, one shipping, one water quality, another national security and there's no real mechanized thinking on how sectors interact with each other," said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a task force member. "For the first time, we as a nation say loudly and clearly that healthy oceans matter."
The president created the task force to coordinate the federal response to pollution from industrial and commercial activities, rising sea levels and ocean acidification, among other problems.
The new National Ocean Council would replace the Committee on Ocean Policy, instituted by President George W. Bush in 2004, which the task force called "moderately effective."
The council would help coastal communities-whether it be a struggling fishing industry in Northern California or a hurricane-damaged area on the Gulf Coast-through better coordination and strategic planning.
The report also recommends that the federal government view all ocean policy with a "ecosystem-based approach," meaning decisions would be made with an emphasis on understanding how all life would be affected in a given area. Officials said this would be a key philosophical shift in the nation's approach.
The report is short on details about how and when these goals would be achieved, but environmental groups applauded the White House's efforts, calling it is an important first step in achieving badly needed reform.