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Report Card: Lack of Federal Funding Hinders Ocean Health
WASHINGTON, DC, February 27, 2008 (ENS) - The United States earned an overall grade of C for ocean restoration efforts in 2007, slightly up from a C- the previous year, according to the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative in its annual report card issued today.

The report card assesses the nation's progress in 2007 toward implementing the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission, as well as the actions described in the Bush administration's U.S. Ocean Action Plan.

The 2007 report card concludes that while state and regional initiatives continue to move forward on ocean governance reform, the lack of progress at the federal level to commit adequate funding and affect meaningful ocean policy reform hinders national improvement.

A full moon rises over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Melbourne Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Masters)

The objective of the U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card is to inform policy makers and the public of the critical challenges facing the oceans, while identifying the many opportunities that are ripe for action.

The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and Pew Oceans Commission to catalyze ocean policy reform. The Initiative is co-chaired by Admiral James D. Watkins (U.S. Navy Ret.) and Leon Panetta, a Congressman from 1976 to 1994 who then served as White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

The primary goal of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative is to accelerate the pace of change that results in meaningful ocean policy reform.

"Because states and regions have done much of the groundwork for ocean and coastal protection on the local level, the building blocks are in place. But they can only go so far without federal collaboration and support," said Panetta. "This nation cannot successfully protect the oceans with one hand tied behind our back."

"We have been waiting for five years for federal policymakers to implement the recommendations of these commissions," said Watkins. "Time is no longer a luxury. The economic and security concerns alone caused by their failure to act should be enough to warrant great concern and unified action from Congress and the administration."

Prompted by the role of oceans in climate change, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative added an entirely new grading category dedicated to the issue. Changes in the frequency and severity of hurricanes, shifts in Arctic ice cover, and changing ocean currents all demonstrate the direct link between oceans and climate change.

"As Congress and the administration move forward developing climate change policies, they must address the glaring lack of resources available to understand and predict their impacts on ocean ecosystems and coastal economies," Watkins and Panetta said.

On the positive side, U.S. ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention gained significant momentum due to support from President George W. Bush and his administration, action in the Senate, and the efforts of a diverse coalition of industry, military, and environmental leaders.

Securing Senate approval of the Convention will require strong support from the president to ensure that the important national security, economic, and environmental interests that the treaty provides are realized, the report card notes.

Ocean Initiative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council Sarah Chasis said, "Our oceans are in a state of silent collapse and we need our government to act now in order to reverse this trend. The longer we wait to address problems like pollution, habitat degradation and overexploitation, the harder and more expensive it will be to fix them."

"We need the federal government to bring order to this lawless frontier through comprehensive measures that will reform the nation's lack of a cohesive ocean policy. To keep the oceans clean and healthy, we need a National Healthy Oceans Act, such as Oceans-21 legislation (H.R. 21) that is currently pending in Congress. This law would coordinate national efforts to reduce pollution and protect ocean habitats so that beaches are clean, and fish and other ocean animals can thrive," Chasis said.

"We have an opportunity to bring our oceans back into balance and we need the government, both state and federal, to take action while there's still time."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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