Obama Creates National Ocean Council to Oversee Protection of Our Oceans, Coasts & Great Lakes

laguna beach photo

photo: Shannon Bullard/Go San Diego Card Blog via flickr

President Obama has signed an executive order adopting the final recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, creating a National Ocean Council charged with overseeing national policy providing stewardship over the United States' oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.

The Executive Order strengthens ocean governance and coordination, establishes guiding principles for ocean management, and adopts a flexible framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes. (Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force)

Praise for the executive order from Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality: "President Obama recognized that our uses of the ocean are expanding at a rate that challenges our ability to manage significant and often competing demands. With a growing number of recreational, scientific, energy, and security activities, we need a national policy that sets the United States on a new path for the conservation and sustainable use of these critical natural resources."

And from Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the NRDC: "With all the pain and devastation in the Gulf of Mexico right now, this policy provides welcome good news for America's oceans and those who depend on them. This is a great victory for everyone who treasures the wonder of the seas, who values ocean life, who flocks to the beach, who loves seafood, and who makes a living on or from the water."

north carolina sand dunes photo

photo: bobistraveling via flickr
Specific Conservation & Biodiversity Protections Lacking
But not everyone believes the move goes far enough. The Center for Biological Diversity, which has hounded the Obama administration throughout the Gulf oil spill, believes crucial language has been omitted.

Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for CBD: "The Obama administration's proposal creates a governance structure for the management of the oceans and sets out a program for marine spatial planning--which, like zoning, would designate certain areas for diverse uses such as drilling, fishing, shipping and protection. But the proposal lacks guarantees for conservation and biodiversity protection. And the the overwhelming need for prevention of climate change and ocean acidification is also overlooked by the policy."

Sakashita went on to say in a press statement that the Obama administration wrongly focuses exclusively on adapting to climate change in this policy, "completely ignoring" measures to prevent them escalating into "potentially devastating environmental transformation."

Read the executive order: Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes
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More on Oceans:
Obama Admin Bucks Federal Judge, Issues New Offshore Drilling Moratorium
Ocean Saltiness Shows Global Warming is Intensifying Our Water Cycle
How Will Global Warming Change Our Oceans: A Quick Primer

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