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Pew floats marine commission to assess America's oceans
With Gov. Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta at the helm, the Pew Charitable Trusts has launched the independent Pew Oceans Commission to assess the condition of America's oceans and marine resources.
The 17-member commission is charged with recommending changes in public policy to protect marine biodiversity. The group will focus on the impact of coastal development, pollution, fishing, climate change and invasive species on marine life in U.S. waters.
"The impact of coastal development, pollution and some commercial fishing practices have led to declining prospects for many of our most cherished marine species — whales, dolphins, turtles, coral and seabirds," said Whitman. "These creatures and the thousands of other organisms that share our seas are tremendously important to the American people. Assuring that our sea life will continue to populate our coastal waters prompts this comprehensive, science-based search for the measures necessary to protect them."
The bipartisan group comprises leaders in business, science and government as well as fishermen and conservationists. The coalition will work to set national priorities to restore and protect America's oceans for future generations.
"Crisis has often dictated our policies related to the oceans, and too often that has been too late," said Panetta. "Good stewardship is about leadership, not crisis. Our principal objective is to recommend policies that will protect our oceans for the future. There can be no greater legacy in this new century than to ensure that our children and their children can enjoy this magnificent resource."
Working with distinguished scientists, public officials, business leaders, and conservation and fishing interests, Whitman and Panetta will hold regional hearings and issue several reports before delivering a final set of recommendations to Congress in early 2002.
"We don't have all the answers today," said Panetta. "We will need to work as partners with all of those who have a stake in the future of our oceans to accomplish our mission."
The commission was created by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations.
"Our marine environment is facing a greater array of problems than ever before in history," said Rebecca Rimel, president of the Pew trust. "The adverse impact of overfishing, unplanned development and pollution that continues unabated despite well-intended laws have led to the collapse of major fisheries in New England, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico covering thousands of square miles, and the tragic waste of millions of fish, mammals and seabirds needlessly killed and discarded as unwanted by-catch each year."
"We believe that a commission made up of distinguished and thoughtful Americans can make an enormous contribution to restoring and protecting our marine environment," she added.
The commission will hold its first meeting July 6 and 7 in Washington, D.C.. The two-day session will include briefings from marine scientists on ocean exploration and the status of marine life.
The commission will hold six to eight meetings prior to submitting its report to Congress in early 2002. Commission subcommittees will conduct hearings, conferences and workshops in coastal communities across the nation.
The commission will also publish interim papers on various issues affecting the U.S. marine environment. The first paper — the impact of air and water pollution and marine debris on life in U.S. coastal waters — is slated for publication in October.
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