Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ocean Action Plan Streamlines Ocean Policy, Benefiting Species

image credit NOAA
For decades, ocean policy decisions have been made on an ad hoc basis in the United States, leading to both disjointed policy and inefficiency. The Obama administration sought to change that through the 2010 creation of the National Ocean Council to help oversee ocean policy implementation. The creation of the National Ocean Council coordinates the work of the more than 20 different agencies that oversee activities affecting our oceans, coastlines and the Great Lakes. 

As part of President Obama's National Ocean Policy, the National Ocean Council recently released the draft National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan. This plan lays out the 50+ actions the Federal Government will take to improve the health of our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes.  The final Implementation Plan is scheduled to be released in spring of this year and Federal agencies will then coordinate with state, local, and tribal authorities and with NGO's to implement the actions.

image credit NOAA
The Plan is guided by four themes, including the adoption of "ecosystem-based management".  This is defined in the plan as, "an integrated approach to resource management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans." Importantly, it calls for the consideration of all elements that are essential to ecosystem functions, treating ecosystems as a whole, rather than managing their individual uses or pieces. In finding that ecosystems are not constrained by political boundaries, it brings collaboration among all state, federal, and regional agencies into the process of making policy. 

The implementation of ecosystem-based management is a major shift in how the United States considers uses of marine ecosystems and potentially beneficial to imperiled species.  Some of the biggest problems facing ocean species -- including acidification, pollution, and habitat loss -- can be better addressed if approached holistically. It's important that this them of ecosystem-based management remains in the final Implementation Plan.

The National Ocean Council is accepting public comments on the Draft Implementation Plan through March 28th, 2012.  
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