On June 12 of 2009, President Obama issued a memorandum establishing the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. The task force is composed of 24 top administrative officials. It was assigned three tasks, the third being that the task force will dissolve upon task completion.
The first and most involved responsibility required the task force to develop recommendations on a national protection and maintenance policy ensuring the “health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources.” Those recommendations would take into account the economic importance of the United States’ key bodies of water as well as oceans' close ties to global climate change.
The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force was given a second responsibility involving coastal and marine spatial planning. Spatial planning would require the task force to assess public needs and opinions to determine which activities can take place in specified marine locations. Basically, it will answer the questions, "Who can do what, where? And when and how?"
All of these decisions and recommendations were, of course, to be made with a continued focus on the national economy and marine ecology.
In September of 2009, the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force released an interim report of its recommendations and proposals focusing on three areas: a national policy emphasizing the importance, both environmentally and economically, of our oceans; the establishment of an interagency National Ocean Council to keep ocean policy a high priority within the federal gvernment; and nine categories for action to manage the largest issues facing our oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes.
Since the time of the task force’s establishment, nearly a year has passed, and the United States is realizing, now more than ever, the importance of keeping an eye on our oceans. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has provided Americans a sobering reminder of how fragile and universally important our marine ecology is. Read coverage of the Gulf oil spill and possible solutions for more information on that situation.
If coastal and marine spatial planning is effective, the public and stakeholders will have a voice in future decisions involving our oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes. The fact that the government is focusing so seriously on ocean policy is encouraging in and of itself. Perhaps an increased public and governmental concern over the actions taking place in our most substantial bodies of water will help us to avoid – or at least prepare for – an accident like BP’s in the future.
On the flip side, many fishermen and others who depend on the oceans to make a living fear increased governmental regulations. Potentially lengthy decisions paired with a substantial investment of financial resources to keep the planning afloat have given the public doubts.
What do you think about the work of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force? Is coastal and marine spatial planning the answer to protecting our oceans?
Lindsey Siegele is the Senior Web Editor at Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on Google+.
Photo by iStockPhoto/phlegma.