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Act now on ocean's future, report says

By Environmental News Network staff

June 8, 1998
Web posted at: 3:18 p.m. EDT (1918 GMT)

The last time U.S. ocean management policies were evaluated was in 1969 by the President's Commission on the Oceans.

We must act now to conserve and sustainably manage ocean resources, according to a report released June 4 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the H. John Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. The report was released in anticipation of the National Ocean Conference taking place Thursday and Friday in Monterey, Calif.

The conference, which will be attended by both President Clinton and Vice President Gore, is designed to bring together all ocean interest groups to identify common ocean goals, encourage greater public awareness and environmental support for coastal ocean issues and to initiate the development of an overall plan for future ocean management.

The last time ocean management policies were evaluated was in 1969 by the President's Commission on the Oceans. The world has changed profoundly in those 30 years and the quality and well-being of many marine areas and resources have declined.

According to the NOAA/Heinz report, the Year of the Ocean and the prospect of a national commission on the oceans, offer the opportunity to re-evaluate the nation's stake in the conservation and use of the oceans

The most profound change over the past 30 years, according to the report, is the encroachment of humanity on the seas.
To enhance this opportunity, "Our Ocean Future: Themes and Issues Concerning the Nation's Stake in the Ocean" provides an outline of the issues affecting the nation's ocean future and concludes that "unless action is taken now, significant benefits to the economy and quality of life will be lost, and the United States will fall behind other nations in using and conserving the oceans and their resources."

Working under a joint project between NOAA and the Heinz Center, the consensus report was prepared by a steering group representing industry, government, academia and environmental organizations. After consulting with 200 ocean and coastal leaders, the steering group concluded that "there is an urgent need for a systematic and comprehensive review of ocean and coastal policies and programs."

The report identifies the most profound change over the past 30 years as the encroachment of humanity on the seas. Millions of people now live and vacation in coastal areas. The increase in coastal populations has lead to additional pavement and infrastructure -- roads, recreation facilities, residential homes, and businesses -- all of which place stresses on the coastal and marine environments.

Additional chapters in the report discuss the difficult problem of managing the coast so that both the economy and environment prosper. Topics include enhancing and sustaining coastal environmental quality, shoreline management, producing energy from the ocean, and maintaining and modernizing the nation's ports. A chapter on protecting marine fisheries discusses the problems of overfishing, over-capitalization, bycatch, habitat protection, aquaculture and its impacts on the environment, managing fisheries across jurisdictions and the trend toward ecosystem management. There are also chapters on science and technology, military use of the oceans and international dimensions of sharing a common resource worldwide.

Our Ocean Future is the second report resulting from U.S. Year of the Ocean activities. It builds on the Year of the Ocean Discussion Papers recently prepared by the federal ocean-related agencies.

The report can be viewed on the Heinz Center's web site, , or ordered from NOAA.

Copyright 1998, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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