Ocean policy and management have not attracted much national attention during the past few decades, but that may be changing. A recent federal report brings together years of research and comes to the long-standing yet little heeded conclusion that the oceans are in trouble. Almost everyone, including conservationists, environmental groups, state officials and industry representatives, applauds the report for taking major steps toward improving management of the oceans. But there is still concern, especially among some U.S. states, that the recommendations will not be fully funded and that they may encourage offshore oil and gas drilling, an activity some states have fought to restrict.
The 450-page report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, a 16-member presidential committee, is the first federal study since 1969 to take a broad look at the health of the nation's oceans, and it propounds an overhaul of ocean policy. Among its proposals are a shift in wildlife management from an approach based on a single species to one based on ecosystems; the creation of a National Oceans Council within the executive branch; and a doubling of federal money allocated to ocean research, from $650 million to $1.3 billion (the amount has fallen from 7 percent of the national budget 25 years ago to just 3.5 percent today). "Given our power and enormous wealth, for us not to pay attention to our oceans is unconscionable. We have to lead by example, and we're not doing that now," says William D. Ruckelshaus, a member of the commission and a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
This article was originally published with the title A Plan for Water.