Today we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), which aims to protect, maintain and restore ocean health while supporting sustainable uses in our oceans.
Healthy, productive oceans and coasts contribute significantly to our quality of life and to our economy. To maintain ecosystems that flourish, we are faced with complex challenges that the NOP is working to address. Across the nation, traditional industries, such as shipping, are expanding and new industries, such as offshore wind energy, are emerging where existing industries, like fishing, have been active for generations. In addition, stressors such as increased development along our coasts, ocean acidification, and sea level rise threaten ocean health.
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Photo credit: Heal The Bay flickr page
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.”
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Photo: Jonathan Hubbell / Photo Contest 2011
Right now, Congress has a major opportunity to protect our ocean and coasts. It can create a National Endowment for the Oceans and safeguard the existing National Ocean Policy in one fell swoop.
How? Well, it’s a tale of two bills.
The House and the Senate both recently passed versions of a bill called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), but their versions are different. The Senate version would establish a National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO), which would expand scientific research, provide planning and resource management, restore habitat and much more. Conversely, the House version not only fails to establish this endowment, it guts the existing National Ocean Policy (NOP) that ensures smart use of ocean resources.
Soon, a committee made up of members of Congress from both chambers will come together in a “conference” to combine the two bills into a single final version. The ocean will either get a big win or suffer a big loss.
What’s at stake?
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How are you spending your first day of summer? We prefer celebrating our ocean--not fighting against it. Credit: Heal the Bay Flickr stream
How are you celebrating the first official day of summer? Some lawmakers in Washington are doing so by actually fighting against vital protections for our ocean, including the National Ocean Policy.
The National Ocean Policy coordinates the activities of more than 20 federal agencies. Most of these vital services already exist, like preventing and cleaning up ocean trash. Particularly now, with West Coast states’ concerns with tsunami debris, coordination is as important as ever. This ocean policy is a way to untangle and streamline the web of existing ocean regulations – more than 140 laws – in order to protect coastal communities and the economy.
But some lawmakers continue attempts to block implementation of the National Ocean Policy. Continue reading »
It’s common sense–tourists are more likely to go to a clean beach. Offshore energy companies need the latest data and maps to make the most accurate plans for successful development. Right now, Federal ocean programs are spread across more than 20 different agencies that often work independently of each other.
That’s why we need a common sense National Ocean Policy that coordinates these different ocean programs in order to both use and protect the ocean in the best possible ways. But some lawmakers are attacking the policy with extremist rhetoric.
Our Government Relations Director Emily Woglom recently weighed in on the benefits of the National Ocean Policy and the misleading attempts to block it.
You can help by calling your Representative today and asking him or her to vote against any attempt to block the National Ocean Policy.