Clinton gets ocean yardstick in Monterey
By Environmental News Network staffJune 11, 1998
Web posted at: 1:03 PM EDT (1303 GMT)
(ENN) -- The world's ocean is in trouble and environmentalists are hoping that substantive plans are announced at the National Ocean Conference today.
Leaders of seven major conservation organizations have issued a challenge to President Clinton to take definitive steps to address threats to the ocean environment. Clinton and Vice President Gore are set to participate in the National Ocean Conference taking place today and tomorrow in Monterey, California.
They are expected to face worried scientists, environmentalists and industry representatives who are concerned about the growing evidence that the ocean is struggling for its survival. The groups are asking the Clinton administration to establish a $200 million fund for marine research and fisheries management.
Noting that changes in the ocean environment are occurring at an unparalleled pace and scale, the seven organizations -- including the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Center For Marine Conservation, Audubon Society, World Wildlife Fund and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermans Associations -- developed an Ocean Agenda they will use as a yardstick in judging the adequacy of the administration's actions and the success of the National Ocean Conference.
"Already, government inaction has had grave consequences for fish populations, habitats and ocean systems worldwide," said Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. "This conference is an unprecedented opportunity for the Clinton administration to show its commitment to the future of our oceans."
It has been 30 years since the United States reviewed its ocean policies. Since then, sewage and garbage have closed beaches about 19,000 times over the past decade, half the population of the United States has moved to the coastline and overfishing has depleted cod, swordfish and blue tuna in the Atlantic Ocean, while some salmon species in the Pacific have been placed on the nation's endangered species list.
The status of many of the 723 other marine species in U.S. coastal waters is simply unknown. In addition, the number of fish advisories recommending that people limit consumption of fish due to chemical contamination increased 70 percent between 1993 and 1996. Toxic tides, fed by elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorous due to polluted runoff, have also increased exponentially.
The Ocean Agenda submitted by the groups encompassed the following points:
Conserve critical ocean habitats--The groups want the administration to establish a network of marine reserves and areas to be used as testing grounds for new sustainable management techniques and as refuges protecting the diversity of ocean wildlife and habitats.
Fully and effectively implement the Essential Fish Habitat provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which are designed to protect the habitat upon which ecologically and economically important fish populations in the United States depend.
Protect ocean wildlife--Fish populations around the world have collapsed as a result of unsustainable fishing practices. Almost 70 percent of the world's major fish populations are either overfished or fished to the limit. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that by the year 2010 global demand for fish will exceed supply by as much as 40 million tons annually. Strictly prohibit the overfishing of U.S. fish populations, including single stocks within multispecies fisheries.
Play a leadership role in international efforts to stop overfishing, rebuild fish populations, reduce the size of overcapitalized fishing fleets, and eliminate government subsidies that contribute to overfishing. Demand the establishment of a timetable and agenda for negotiations over serious environmental reforms at the World Trade Organization to address anti-environmental WTO rules that threaten ocean wildlife.
Protect ocean water quality and public health--The oceans are a dumping ground for millions of tons of toxic chemicals, sewage, industrial waste, agricultural runoff, and oil each year.To protect fish that is used for food and protect water quality, the administration should: Challenge Congress to strengthen the Clean Water Act by adopting stringent standards for nonpoint source pollution reduction. Fully and aggressively implement the president's Clean Water Action Plan. Play a leadership role in the negotiation of a new global treaty on persistent organic pollutants, to assure the restriction and phase-out, on a national and international level, of toxic chemicals such as DDT. (The United Nations Environment Program is sponsoring the negotiation, which begins this month in Montreal)
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