Yesterday's repeal of the National Ocean Policy is a retreat from common sense policies designed to protect coastal environments, communities and economies. The National Ocean Policy was the result of decades of bi-partisan research, recommendations, and public outreach. Its implementation centered on ensuring our federal government is more transparent, inclusive, efficient, and responsive to the priorities of the nation's coastal states and stakeholders, while looking for ways to ensure healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems for future generations.
"The National Ocean Policy has served as our country's commitment to protecting our ocean ecosystems and ushering in a new era of good ocean governance," said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society. "The replacement order guts the NOP as a stewardship policy and instead, creates a policy centered on utilizing the ocean, not prioritizing its protection for sustainable use."
Established in 2010, the National Ocean Policy was founded on the work of two blue ribbon, bi-partisan ocean policy commissions, both of which called for a comprehensive ocean policy to guide sustainable management of U.S. ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes. Since its creation, the National Ocean Policy served as the framework for the long-term stewardship for our nation's waters. In addition to promoting conservation, this framework fostered stronger economies for our coastal communities by prioritizing the work of the federal government around diverse priority objectives, ranging from improving coordination and integration across the Federal Government to enhancing water quality in the ocean, along our coasts, and in the Great Lakes.
"It is our obligation to our children to leave them a healthy, sustainable planet. That cannot just be a feel-good ideal but requires real policies that can do real things on a local, state and federal level," said Sarah Winter Whelan, Ocean Policy Program Director for the Littoral Society. "Not only has the National Ocean Policy been crucial for moving toward this goal, but also for ensuring that our nation's rich maritime heritage -- which depends upon a healthy ocean ecosystem -- prospers as well."
Our nation's ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes are hubs for commercial and recreational fishing, shipping, renewable energy production, high-speed telecommunications, science and research, tourism, and countless recreational interests and industries. The ocean and coastal waters of the Mid-Atlantic region are particularly valuable to the U.S. environment and economy - more than 34 million people reside along its coast. Additionally, the Mid-Atlantic Ocean and coast serve as an economic engine, generating $54 billion in GDP and employ more than 754,807 people.
The U.S. economy and a healthy environment are inextricably linked and the federal government needs to be able to collaborate across agencies and industry to proactively identify existing and potential conflicts and proposed solutions, to pave the way for more efficient permitting, use, and tools for a healthy, productive marine environment.
The National Ocean Policy helped in this effort by bringing together states, tribes, the federal government and stakeholders to plan for a shared ocean future through improved management. "In the Mid-Atlantic region, states and stakeholders are at the table because they want a say in how we protect and manage offshore waters and solve problems. This needs the federal agencies' involvement," says Helen Henderson, Ocean Planning Manager for the Littoral Society.
"Our Mid-Atlantic Ocean faces a host of threats to its health. The work of coordinating management is set to help us ensure we can reduce conflicts while protecting the ocean and coastline. New Jerseyans are inherently connected to our ocean and coast in so many ways; whether it be fishing, surfing, boating, or a day at the beach. Having a National Ocean Policy to manage uses, protect clean water and resources, and to plan for the restoration of our shores is something we simply cannot afford to be without," said Henderson. "Now it will be up to the states to lead and show that a healthy environment and economy are not mutually exclusive."
The American Littoral Society is committed to continuing the National Ocean Policy's legacy, understanding that the conservation challenges it sought to overcome remain and must be addressed, by working with the government, tribal nations, and stakeholders to find collaborative solutions to ensure our ocean is healthy, productive and safe.