Recently, I told you about the opportunity that Congress now has to create a National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO) and safeguard the existing National Ocean Policy (NOP). The heat is on, as the members of Congress that will decide the fate of these provisions in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) convened last week. Since then, the chorus of voices calling for Congress to take these vital steps to protect our ocean has grown exponentially.
More than 74 diving groups, dive shops and individual divers – including prominent figures such as Sylvia Earle and Ocean Conservancy Board Member Philippe Cousteau – sent a letter to the WRDA conferees today. Here’s an excerpt:
“As divers, we see firsthand the incredible beauty and, too often, the increasing burden our oceans face.… The WRDA conference will consider two provisions that significantly impact our nation’s oceans and coasts and the economies that rely on them. We support the Senate-passed National Endowment for the Oceans, which would help improve ocean health and maximize the economic benefits these resources provide our nation. We oppose the House-passed Flores rider, which would place damaging restrictions on the use of common-sense ocean management tools like ocean planning and ecosystem-based management found in our National Ocean Policy. To maximize the benefits of a healthy ocean and its vibrant economy, we urge you to include the NEO provision and strike the Flores rider from WRDA.”
These divers share a common belief that everyone benefits from a healthy and productive ocean. Few people witness the threats that our ocean faces more intimately than divers do every time they go below the surface. From ocean acidification’s effect on corals and shellfish to the staggering scope of the marine debris problem to the shifting of marine life due to rising ocean temperatures, divers see these impacts firsthand. They know that we badly need the smart ocean-use planning that the NOP facilitates and the funding for critical ocean research and restoration that the NEO would provide.
The diving community’s letter joins another letter sent to the WRDA conferees last week from Ocean Conservancy and more than 200 organizations and individuals from around the nation stressing the need for the conference committee to get this bill right.
We’ll continue to monitor the progress of WRDA as the conference committee meets in the coming days and weeks, but it’ll take a concerted effort from ocean advocates across the country to ensure that Congress establishes NEO and stands strong in supporting the NOP. You can add your voice to the hundreds who have already weighed in here.