Washington, DC - The Center for Marine Conservation along with nine other
national environmental groups are very disappointed that not one
representative from a national environmental organization was named to the
Commission on Ocean Policy announced earlier today. Environmental groups
have been anxiously waiting since the April 20th deadline, hoping that the
Bush Administration would carry out the will of the Oceans Act and nominate
a balanced commission. Today, it is clear, that is not the case.
The Oceans Act of 2000, passed unanimously by Congress, established the commission to study how to promote better use of the country's beaches and coasts, restore fisheries and marine mammals, strengthen coastal economies, and expand undersea exploration. The 16-member commission will spend 18 months establishing priorities and recommending long-term strategies for a national ocean policy.
"The Commission is supposed to be a driving force for change and better management of our ocean and coastal resources. While the Commission includes representatives from other constituencies and viewpoints including; oil and gas, fishing, academia, and ports, the marine conservation community has no voice," noted Roger Rufe, President of Center for Marine Conservation.
The Oceans Act of 2000 requires that the membership of the Commission "be balanced by area of expertise" and comprised of individuals "who are knowledgeable in ocean and coastal activities, including individuals representing ...public interest organizations involved with scientific, regulatory, economic, and environmental ocean and coastal activities."
"President Bush's failure to appoint a conservationist to the Commission on Ocean Policy is a severe affront to Americans who believe greater protection for the oceans is needed," said Barbara Jeanne Polo, Executive Director of American Oceans Campaign. "Without a conservation seat on the panel, we are deeply concerned that important recommendations for ensuring healthy oceans will be ignored or barely considered."
It has been over 30 years since the Stratton Commission examined ocean and coastal activities and since then, our reliance on the ocean for food, energy, international trade, tourism, recreation, and advances in medicine, science, and technology has increased exponentially. The ocean territory of the United States is the largest and richest in the world, exceeding 3.4 million square miles. Yet, within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) we do not have a comprehensive plan for managing our ocean resources.
"Life in the seas is staggering through the gauntlet of assaults that our society has created but failed to tame," said Dr. William Y. Brown, Audubon Vice President and Director of its Living Ocean Program. "The Commission's success will be measured by clarity and strength of vision for an enduring living ocean, and a balanced membership is necessary to achieve that end."
As environmental groups watch and wait, the time is now to re-examine our nation's relationship to the ocean. Representation of all stakeholders is vital in establishing a comprehensive, new direction in ocean governance and to ensure that our oceans have the priority status that they deserve and desperately need.