U.S. National Ocean Policy

By: American Sailing Association, Legislation

In 2009, President Obama declared June National Oceans Month, recognizing that “From the abyssal plains of the Pacific to the shallow coral reefs and seagrass beds of the Florida Keys, oceans support an incredible diversity of marine life and ecosystems.” He also created the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to write recommendations for promoting conservation of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.

I assume that the–ahem–little oil spill put a fire under that Task Force, so on July 19, 2010, they released their final recommendations. The recommendations are beautiful and Utopian, and the hopeful part of me pushes aside cynical thoughts of budget constraints and antagonists. The final recommendations set forth the first ever National Policy for Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes. And although it hasn’t yet passed into law, it’s trilling to read: “It is the POLICY of the United States to: Improve the resiliency of….Support sustainable, safe, secure, and productive access to and uses of….Respect and preserve our Nation’s maritime heritage, including our social, cultural, recreational, and historical values….Improve our understanding and awareness of changing environmental conditions, trends, and their causes….Foster a public understanding of the value of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes to build a foundation for improved stewardship.”

Furthermore, the task force unanimously supports the United States accession to the Law of the Sea Convention (which I was shocked to learn we hadn’t adopted yet). The Law of the Sea Convention “sets forth the rights and responsibilities of nations to prevent, reduce, and control pollution of the marine environment and to protect and preserve resources off their shores.” Hm. Now that might have been a good thing to have in place before millions of barrels of oil were floating around our coasts.

Although our National Ocean Policy may be horrifically late in coming, it’s better late than never. If they can accomplish what’s set forth in these recommendations, the world could be a better, bluer place.