Earlier this week, President Obama signed an executive order for the new U.S. National Policy for Stewardship of Ocean, Coasts and Great Lakes – a monumental step toward improving management of American coastlines and seas.
As a member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and advisor to the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, which drafted the new policy, I am acutely aware of the multitude of threats that our oceans face – including pollution, fishery collapse, climate change and coastal development – and the challenge of creating a holistic vision for ocean protection that tackles all threats and meets everyone’s needs.
The new policy is well positioned to address this challenge. Among other things, it proposes creating marine spatial plans across U.S. coasts that take into account all the ways Americans use the oceans, from transportation to tourism to fishing.
These plans aim to resolve conflicts between competing uses while providing better protection for marine ecosystems overall. If we had had comprehensive marine spatial planning covering a broad range of interests working together on the management of the Gulf of Mexico, the scrutiny of oil and gas development planning and the effectiveness of response plans would have been considered in the context of other interests as well.
With science-based planning and decision-making at the core of the president’s new ocean policy, it will now be possible to ensure that human activities are managed in concert rather than conflict, as well as safeguard the very ecosystems that we depend upon.
CI’s marine conservation strategy takes a similar approach; our Seascapes program works in the world’s most species-rich waters (including the Eastern Tropical Pacific, Sulu-Sulawesi in the Coral Triangle, Brazil’s Abrolhos region and Bird’s Head in Indonesia) to foster collaboration between national governments to scientifically assess and sustainably manage the essential resources that feed and provide for millions of people.
Restoring the health of our oceans is undoubtedly an ambitious task, yet I am optimistic that the new U.S. policy can help us get there – as long as the implementation lives up to the promise. And although better planning will go a long way toward improving the health of America’s coastlines, it is equally important to recognize the vital linkages between all of Earth’s oceans and seas.
In support of this crucial mission, I look forward to continuing to work with the new National Ocean Council as well as CI’s international efforts in marine conservation through our global strategy and country programs.
Dr. Andrew Rosenberg is the Senior Vice President of CI’s Science + Knowledge division. He was also recently appointed as a member of the Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Panel (ORRAP), part of the new National Ocean Council structure.