States Lead Way on Oceans
Byline: The Register-Guard
As is true with critical national issues ranging from global warming to health care, the states - not the federal government - are leading the way in addressing the crises facing the nation's oceans.
The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative recently issued its annual report card on the United States' performance in protecting its coastlines during the past year.
The report card is a collaborative effort by the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. Over the past five years, these prestigious panels have issued annual reports that echo the same conclusion - America's coastal waters are in trouble, and extensive policy changes are necessary to avert catastrophe. The nation's overall grade crept up to a C from last year's C-minus, which is nothing to brag about. Without the A-minus given to state and regional governance reforms, the overall grade would have dropped to the D the United States received in 2005.
Oregon's main contribution has been Gov. Ted Kulongoski's initiative to establish a network of marine reserves along the state's 360-mile coast. The proposal has encountered fierce opposition from critics who insist that the reserves are un-necessary, would damage the coast's economy and would threaten a beleaguered fishing industry. But Kulongoski has pressed forward, rightly insisting that reserves can play a key role in replenishing fish populations and other marine life.
California has set the standard for reform on the West Coast. Last year the Golden State established the largest network of reserves in the continental United States - a necklace of 29 protected areas from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz.
On the East Coast, Massachusetts lawmakers are nearing final approval of a landmark bill to create an integrated system for managing the state's coastal waters. The New Jersey Legislature recently created the Coastal and Ocean Protection Council, which will provide ecosystem-based management of the state's ocean and coastal resources. In New York, a newly created Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Council is moving forward with a range of projects that include creation of an ocean and coastal atlas and establishment of new guidelines for managing ocean and coastal waters. …