- Sarah Chasis
Today, NRDC released an assessment of President Obama’s environmental record in his first year in office. One of the issues where he has made progress is in reviving our threatened oceans.
I’d like to highlight for you two aspects of the President’s first year that I think are particularly significant for oceans.
One is the President’s appointment of Dr. Jane Lubchenco as head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the lead civilian ocean agency which manages the nation’s ocean fisheries, marine sanctuaries, and coastal zone programs, as well as conducts wide-ranging and important scientific research regarding the health of our oceans. Dr. Lubchenco is a world-renowned marine ecologist who served in the past as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and in other distinguished positions. The President’s appointment is evidence of his commitment to strong science-based decision-making. Such decision-making should help reverse the decline in ocean resources resulting from overexploitation, pollution, habitat loss and climate change.
The second important aspect of the President’s ocean progress is the national ocean policy the administration is in the process of creating. Just as we have a Clean Air Act to protect our air and a Clean Water Act to protect our water, we need a national ocean policy to protect our oceans. Not one, but two national commissions (the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission) have called for the urgent adoption and implementation of such a policy in order to stem the rapid decline in the health of our ocean ecosystems. Now, President Obama has put our nation on track to do this.
In June, the President issued a Memorandum entitled a “National Policy for the Oceans, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes.” This memo calls for the development of a national ocean policy to ensure the protection, maintenance and restoration of the health of ocean ecosystems and resources and a coordinated framework to improve stewardship of the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. In order to develop this policy, the President established an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force headed by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and set firm deadlines for the Task Force to report back to him.
NRDC expects a final report to the president from the Task Force in the first quarter of 2010, and as we move into the new year – I hope the President will make this national ocean policy official by issuing an executive order. Doing this would constitute a major step toward reviving the oceans – and surely earn him a gold star on his second year environmental progress report!
Take Action: Tell President Obama to protect our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.