Oceans need a sea change

  • Artist's rendering of ocean-observing resources in the water, air and space. Data are collected and transmitted to land via satellites and seafloor fiber-optic cables

    Marine Technology Society graphic from the Preliminary Report from the US Commission on Ocean Policy
  It’s time to wake up and smell the salt water. According to a recent report from the United States Commission on Ocean Policy, America’s oceans are overfished, polluted and in desperate need of new management policies.

After three years of study, the President Bush-appointed commission came up with more than 200 preliminary recommendations aimed at improving the health and productivity of fisheries and protecting the seas from pollution.

Among the report’s most significant recommendations is the creation of an ocean trust fund for conserving marine life. The fund would draw up to $4 billion per year from oil and gas royalties. But, according to Warner Chabot, vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, such a plan might actually encourage offshore drilling, damaging the very areas it’s meant to preserve.

The report calls for setting national guidelines for marine reserves where fishing would not be allowed, so that fish stocks could recover. It also advocates creating a National Ocean Council to coordinate the 15 agencies that now work on various marine programs.

The independent Pew Oceans Commission report, released last June, reached many of the same conclusions, but emphasized conservation over economic issues.

You can read the report at www.oceancommission.gov. The Pew report is available online at www.pewoceans.org.