Washington, June 13 (DPA) US President Barack Obama Friday ordered federal agencies to come up with a common national policy to protect the country’s coastlines, oceans and major lakes.
US coasts and oceans - as well as the Great Lakes along the northern border with Canada - are currently managed by a patchwork of state laws and agencies.
Obama issued a presidential memorandum instructing a new taskforce to come up with recommendations for a comprehensive national policy within 90 days.
Alaska's junior Senator, Mark Begich, issued this statement, following President Obama's announcement:
As the state with the most coastline and most ocean area within our extensive 200-mile limit, I welcome President Obama’s announcement of forging a new national policy for oceans and coasts.
Oceans play a crucial role in Alaska’s economy. The oceans sustain Alaska’s commercial fisheries which provide over 60% of the nation’s total catch. Rural Alaskans depend on the ocean to sustain fisheries resources that meet their subsistence needs, while urban Alaskans enjoy some of best recreational fishing in the world. Millions of visitors are drawn north to view our spectacular shoreline and the North Pacific is a major transportation corridor for international commerce.
Yet today the health of our oceans is in trouble. Warming temperatures, a diminished icepack and increased acidification are affecting fish stocks, marine mammals and entire coastal communities.
The change is opening new opportunities. Reduction of the Arctic icepack could open new transportation corridors and allow expansion of resource development such as oil and gas, although these opportunities also carry great risks.
For all those reasons, now is an appropriate time to take a new look at the nation’s oceans policy and Alaska has a lot to contribute to the discussion. Our fisheries are managed for sustainability, and are considered among the best managed in the world. We’ve learned the lessons from past marine disasters; incorporate new technology in monitoring and assessing our waters and involve our communities and indigenous people and their local, traditional knowledge.
Alaska also has the most at stake from a new national oceans policy and we need to be at the table when these discussions take place. A new oceans policy must be science-driven and there are major research gaps that need to be addressed first.
For all these reasons, we welcome the move toward a new oceans policy and look forward to working with the Obama Administration to make sure the new national oceans policy reflects Alaska concerns as well as the lessons we have learned in 50 years of stewardship.
The composition of the working group hasn't yet been announced, but odds are that the new National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator, Jane Lubchenco, will have an important, if not the lead, role. It is becoming relevant that Sen. Begich was the only favorable Senator to closely question Lubchenco during her nomination hearing.
Dr. Lubchenco has been closely associated with the Pew Trust's Marine Conservation Campaign, which has promoted a national oceans policy for years. Just this past week, Dr. Lubchenco gave the keynote address at the Capitol Ocean Week Symposium, where topics in Obama's new policy were discussed. Among them:
- Charting the Course: Enacting a National Ocean Policy
- Feeding a Nation: The Role of Fishing and Aquaculture in Today's Economy
- Tools and Technology: Exploring and Creating an Ocean Infrastructure
- Information that Moves America
- Traveling from Sea to Shining Sea: Tourism's Influence on the Ocean and the Economy
- Fueling the Future: The Ocean's Role in a Comprehensive Energy Policy
- All Farms are Coastal: The Link between the Ocean and Agriculture
- Drugs from the Deep: The Ocean's Role in Modern Health Care
- An International Perspective: Natural Resource-Based Economies in the Coral Triangle
- Marine Spatial Planning: The Science, Business, and Policy Case
image - Dr. Jane Lubchenco