As the dust begins to settle after what felt like a never-ending election season, Ocean Conservancy is gearing up for our policy work to begin again in earnest. Our approach isn’t about which party is in charge, it’s about finding solutions for a healthy ocean, wherever they may come from. Here are a few initial reactions and issues to be on the lookout for following the 2012 election:
1. President Obama is good news for the Ocean. In his first term, President Obama established America’s first National Ocean Policy, calling for a forward-thinking, cooperative and pro-conservation approach to the decisions we make about the ocean. His positions on science-based conservation, ending overfishing, rebuilding depleted fish populations, and clean energy are all things we can look forward to in a second term. We can expect that under President Obama agencies like NOAA, Interior and EPA will continue to be true ocean defenders if Congress gives them the resources they need to succeed. Granted there is room for improvement in the Arctic.
2. No one benefits from politicizing the ocean. The President can’t save the ocean on his own. And the still-split Congress means there’s a chance for more gridlock. Because a healthy ocean means a healthy economy, there’s no good reason to politicize ocean conservation. Just last week we were talking about the Washington Post’s look at how ocean policy has begun to creep into electoral politics in some places.
3. We need more ocean heroes. We are very pleased to see strong voices for the ocean like Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island win reelection. But we also saw the retirement of some ocean defenders this year, like Senator Olympia Snowe and Congressman Norm Dicks. One way or another, funding for ocean programs will be under the microscope in Congress. Retirements and committee term limits means there will be a game of musical chairs going on to determine who gets the chance to lead on ocean issues on Capitol Hill. We need to convince leaders in both parties to stand up for the ocean and it’s never too early to tell your public officials you care about a healthy ocean.
4. We need to put on our hip waders and roll up our sleeves. More than two years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, there is still a staggering amount of work to be done. Congress passed, and the President signed a plan to direct BP’s Clean Water Act fines to Gulf restoration, but that money doesn’t become available until there is a resolution of the case against BP, either through trial or a settlement. And now large areas of the East Coast are facing a prolonged recovery period from the super-storm Sandy. The storm was a stark reminder of the fragility of our coastlines and the importance of making smart decisions about where to develop and what to protect on our coasts. Fisheries disasters were declared in New England, Mississippi, and Alaska — across the country we are ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted fish populations but there is still work to be done to ensure a prosperous future for fish and fishermen.
The elections, of course, matter. But in many ways our game plan would be the same regardless of who won. The ocean is facing unprecedented challenges, and continues to provide unprecedented opportunities for a thriving country and healthy planet. What’s mentioned here is simply the tip of the iceberg. We will mobilize citizen advocates to facilitate change and protect the ocean for future generations. We are committed to supporting efforts that benefit the people who depend on the ocean for food, jobs and recreation. We will champion the best in science-based solutions to tackle the largest ocean conservation challenges we face. And we will partner with unexpected allies to develop cross-cutting innovations that lead to lasting change.