10:52 a.m., April 20, 2004 — The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy has released its preliminary report to the public. It calls for sweeping changes in how the nation’s marine and coastal resources are governed.
Carolyn Thoroughgood, dean of UD’s College of Marine Studies, and Biliana Cicin-Sain, director of the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy, serve on the commission’s Science Advisory Panel. Here both address issues raised in the commission’s report.
What is the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy? Why was it established?
Thoroughgood: The Oceans Act of 2000, acknowledging the importance of the oceans to the United States, called for the President to create the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. The commissioners were to be drawn from diverse backgrounds and were asked to establish findings and develop recommendations for a new comprehensive national ocean policy. The last comprehensive review of U.S. ocean policy took place more than 30 years ago when the Stratton Commission issued its report, called “Our Nation and the Sea,” in 1969. Since then, there have been many changes in ocean legislation and ocean use. Over time, increasing societal pressures on ocean and coastal resources have resulted in a proliferation of local, state, regional and federal agencies, often with conflicting mandates but with a shared purpose to conserve our nation’s marine and coastal resources. Scientific discoveries have helped us better understand how very complex marine systems really work—but the governance structures often do not reflect these advances. It was simply time for the citizens of this country to understand the critical roles the oceans play in all our lives and assume responsibility for them.
Cicin-Sain: The commission has provided a blueprint for the management of the oceans offshore the United States. The United States has authority over the largest and richest Exclusive Economic Zone (the 200-mile ocean zone) in the world. The commission has addressed problems of resource depletion, conflicts of use and unrealized economic opportunities in government fragmentation and duplication in ocean management.
How have you been involved with the commission?
Thoroughgood: I have served as one of the science advisors and particularly contributed to the discussions and recommendations associated with the issues of ocean research and education — from cradle to grave.
Cicin-Sain: I have been both a science advisor and a consultant to the commission. I wrote several reports for the commission on how to improve the organization of ocean affairs at federal and state levels.
What are the most significant changes the commission is proposing to how marine and coastal resources are managed?
Cicin-Sain: Among the most important changes the commission is proposing is the elevation of ocean issues to the highest political level, including establishing a presidential advisor on oceans in the White House and a cabinet-level interagency Council on Oceans. This will help to ensure that conflicts among users and agencies over ocean resources will be addressed in a comprehensive and balanced manner.
Thoroughgood: Other major recommendations include establishing a new national ocean policy framework at all levels of government, but most importantly, organized around the configuration of the natural ecosystems rather than political boundaries; sustained investment in ocean science research and development to support informed decision-making; and education of U.S. citizens ranging from the advancement of ocean literacy to preparing a more knowledgeable workforce for the 21st century.
What impact will the report have nationally, and locally on Delaware?
Cicin-Sain: Nationally, the commission’s report will help to unite the many groups with a stake in the oceans — from industry and environmental groups to technical organizations. Although each group has different perspectives, all believe that a more orderly and comprehensive approach to ocean management is needed. In Delaware, the report will spur the state government to look at all the ocean resources offshore our state, to forecast future threats and opportunities and to develop a better process for ensuring sustainable use and protection of the oceans.
Thoroughgood: In the long run, implementation of the commission's recommendations will result in our oceans and coasts being clean, safe and sustainably managed. A widespread ocean observing network will give us the capability to measure, predict and forecast the impacts of the ocean just as we now are able to do for the atmosphere. Enhanced educational efforts will result in a well-educated workforce prepared to advance sustainable solutions to the problems and opportunities presented by this dominant resource on the Earth. As a coastal state with a great reliance on marine resources, the state of Delaware will share in these very positive outcomes.
What can the average citizen do to protect the ocean and coast?
Cicin-Sain: An important recommendation by the commission is to develop a concerted public education program to instill an “ocean ethic,” which will give the average citizen the know-how and the tools needed to take care of our oceans.
Thoroughgood: Stewardship is not just the responsibility of government, but of the individual, as well. Every citizen must educate themselves on the importance and value of the oceans and coasts and then support policies that conserve these resources, while personally minimizing negative environmental impacts themselves.
For a copy of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy’s preliminary report, visit www.oceancommission.gov.