Newspaper article Roll Call

Efforts to Block National Ocean Policy Are Misguided

Newspaper article Roll Call

Efforts to Block National Ocean Policy Are Misguided

Article excerpt

The gross overreaction by critics of the National Ocean Policy has now moved beyond baseless criticism.

House lawmakers have passed an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and science spending bill blocking implementation of the policy -- a step that could have dire consequences for our oceans and the people who depend on them.

This is not an "effort to conquer our coastlines," as some critics have called it. The president does not intend to ban all sport fishing, as others have claimed.

Much of the policy is simply about coordinating and minimizing redundancy of existing programs that manage and protect the ocean, beaches and coastal economies. A vital source of livelihoods, the ocean provides jobs such as tourism and fishing, in addition to new opportunities such as harnessing the energy from wind, waves and currents.

While critics have focused on some of the more controversial portions of the policy, their efforts to block implementation put at risk the vast portions of the policy that aren't controversial -- namely, programs and services that already exist and that Americans have come to rely on.

For example, the National Ocean Policy Draft Implementation Plan lists marine debris prevention and cleanup' an already existing program, as a priority. Marine debris affects not only ocean ecosystems and wildlife but also coastal economies. If efforts to block implementation of the entire policy are successful, will that restrict or have a chilling effect on agencies that do this work?

What happens when it comes time for communities in Hawaii and Alaska and on the West Coast to address debris washing ashore from the Japan tsunami -- a ban on cleanups? Would Congress want to stop the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Coast Guard and NASA from coordinating the tracking of and response to debris?

The policy also identifies as a priority a community-based program to remove old fishing nets that kill countless marine wildlife every year. Could this ban on implementing the policy hurt fisheries as more fish are caught by abandoned "ghost nets" as opposed to actual fishermen? …

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