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Stewardship Working Group

The Stewardship Working Group (SWG) of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy assessed the current status of the United Stateís stewardship of living and non-living marine resources in coastal and EEZ waters and in the world oceans. The SWG reviewed our knowledge of global climate change, its relationship to ocean resources, and strategies to deal with change. The Group also provided recommendations on those ocean qualities that are important from the point of view of non-extractable ocean resources. The SWG concentrated on what we, the people of the United States, can do to responsibly and sustainably use our contiguous ocean areas and their resources and the global ocean system to which they connect. The findings and recommendations of the Working Group were reported to the full Commission as the basis for discussion and possible action.

Working Group Members

Dr. Paul A. Sandifer
Ms. Ann D’Amato
Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, USN
Mr. Paul L. Kelly
Dr. Frank Muller-Karger
Admiral James D. Watkins, USN (Ret.)

Roles of the Working Group

In carrying out this charge, the SWG will consider various trends (e.g., in such areas as the use and status of extractable and non-extractable resources, water quality, human health, atmospheric phenomena and weather, stakeholder perspectives, regulatory decisions and the impacts of such decisions, ecological, economic, social and political impacts of use and regulation, investments in science, technology, management, and regulation, etc.) and identify and evaluate a range of alternatives for consideration by the full Commission. The SWG will work to ensure that the highest priority issues are addressed on a region-by-region and national level, that opportunity for input is provided to interested entities, that relevant questions are posed to presenters at public meetings of the Commission or subunits of the Commission, that staff or research papers are prepared as needed by the SWG, and that key issues and possible options for addressing them are identified.


General Areas of Assessment/Interest

The SWG intends to examine a wide range of issues on ocean use, conservation, management, recovery and enforcement within the context of the following ten broad areas, which are listed in no order of priority.

  1. Education/Monitoring: People in the U.S. need to be sufficiently educated on ocean and weather matters to ensure that a strong stewardship ethic develops with regard to use of the ocean. What are some means to engage the public in a continuing effort of stewardship of the ocean? Are we investing effectively in educating the public about ocean/coastal issues so that they can act and vote intelligently? Are we educating the public to ensure they understand the value of science and the meaning of uncertainty? Are we investing sufficiently in ongoing, long-term monitoring of the coastal and marine environments and the upland ecosystems to which they connect, to be able to determine whether change is occurring, and the direction, magnitude and likely cause of such change? Does the public understand the link between the ocean, weather, and climate? Does the public understand the connection between ocean health and human health? Are we pursuing opportunities to provide international leadership through education and training?

  2. Science Underpinning for Regulations: We cannot manage individual resources without considering the impacts on other species or resources; we must instead recognize interrelated systems within the oceans and manage accordingly. Are U.S. rules and laws that regulate behavior in the use of the broad range of ocean resources based on the best available scientific understanding and best available data? Do we have the necessary tools to be good stewards of the ocean environment? What is the best strategy to map resources? Is our understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological connections between the atmosphere and the ocean robust enough for use in defining responsible and sustainable resource use practices? Do we understand the human health repercussions, including possible risks of infectious disease or contamination associated with land development or changes in the ocean environment? Are we developing new tools to help monitor these risks? Specifically, is there sufficient credible science to support stewardship and resource management decisions? Is this science used appropriately? Is there a need for coordination and synthesis of the scientific endeavors of the U.S. and the international community?

  3. Governance: The U.S. needs to develop sufficiently clear and unambiguous governmental organizational structures spanning comprehensive jurisdictional and geographic regimes so as to encourage rather than discourage responsible use of the oceans. How can the U.S. coordinate what appear to be numerous, disjointed, overlapping and/or contradictory organizational, regulatory and process regimes that render ocean management ineffective? What are the appropriate roles of the Federal government, of States and local governments, and of the private sector? Do our interagency and Federal-State management mechanisms work sufficiently well from a stewardship perspective? Do existing management structures suffer from conflicting mandates? With regard to regulatory regimes, what positive incentives, deterrent restrictions, or combination of management tools could be utilized within the marine management structure to enhance sustainable use of resources?


  4. Stewardship Investment: Has the U.S. made sufficient investment in understanding how well it is behaving with regard to the sustainability of ocean uses? Are we investing sufficiently in ongoing, long-term monitoring of the coastal and marine environments and the upland ecosystems to which they connect, to be able to determine whether change is occurring, and the direction, magnitude and likely cause of such change? Are these investments properly scoped to address the connections between the atmosphere, the ocean, human society, and living resources? Can we tell which resources are in good condition and which are in trouble? Can we determine cause and develop solutions to resolve these problems? Do we know the status of U.S. stewardship of fisheries and other living marine resources and the habitats upon which they depend? Are the Federal and State fisheries management mechanisms resulting in effective stewardship of targeted and non-targeted fishery populations? Is there need for a national policy and plan for management and protection of underwater cultural resources in the nation’s marine environment?

  5. Coastal Development: Today, over 40 percent of new commercial and residential development is along the coast, and it is estimated that by the year 2025, about 75 percent of Americans will live near an ocean. The U.S. needs to develop a strategy to manage such growth and maintain a dynamic shoreline. Unbridled coastal development and its related non-point-source runoff, runoff from non-coastal areas, and erosion pose pervasive and highly significant threats to coastal and marine environments and communities. Likewise, coastal tourism and population relocation are major contributors to the economic value derived from the nation’s coastal environments and also to growth-related impacts on marine resources. What can the country do as a matter of national policy to reduce and better manage these threats, while maintaining the vibrant economic engine of our coasts? Should the U.S. consider developing a comprehensive management strategy and structure related to coastal development and tourism?

  6. Enforcement: Effective enforcement of rules and regulations is an essential element of successful stewardship efforts. Does the U.S. have effective enforcement of stewardship regulations? How can such enforcement be improved without impacting enhanced national security efforts, or how can it be coordinated jointly with such efforts? Are new technologies being developed to assist in stewardship enforcement? How can the Department of Defense test its existing and new security systems, as well as train its people in the ocean so as to be effective in its national defense missions but with minimal impact on living marine resources and habitats? How can the Federal government, States and local jurisdictions work together to improve enforcement of stewardship rules within the Nation’s coastal and marine environments?


  7. Marine Transportation: A vibrant marine transportation system, including competitive ports, is essential for the economic future of the nation. How can port development, management, expansion, rehabilitation and impacts of such activities on the surrounding coastal communities and marine environments be managed within a national context? Are actions by agencies such as the U.S. Corps of Engineers and other Federal, State and local entities consistent with regional ecosystem requirements and a stewardship ethic? Can the U.S. develop an integrated, national transportation strategy that considers sea, land, and air routes in the modernization of its ports infrastructure, and do this by capitalizing on natural resources in a sustainable fashion? Are there stewardship issues related to transportation on the high seas? Are incentives available, or could such incentives be developed for the shipping industry to minimize issues of biological and chemical contamination associated with ballast water and other discharges? What are the lessons learned so far in terms of what works in promoting stewardship in these industries?

  8. Planned Use Management: Zoning and land use planning are widely accepted practices in managing land resources. Are these concepts transferable to oceanic areas? Should the U.S. develop a national "Ocean Use Plan" based upon "Designated Use Areas" for the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)? What are the optimal mechanisms to partner with States and link with coastal land-use plans? Can we capitalize on the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 or other existing Federal statutes as a basis for an integrated ocean use plan? There are many different kinds of "Marine Protected Areas" (MPA’s) under different jurisdictions, in different environments and created or considered for vastly different purposes (protection of fragile environments, enhancement of target populations, security zones, defense practice ranges, etc.). Does the U.S. have/need a systematic approach to MPA’s? Are the various kinds of MPA’s effective or ineffective? Is there a most effective way to design MPA’s and use them in combination with other management tools for improved resource management? What other zonation concepts simplify resource management in the ocean?


  9. Global Climate Change: Climate change is a matter of urgent global concern, particularly with regard to stewardship of natural resources. Is the U.S. investing sufficient resources in research and monitoring of oceanic processes and ocean-atmosphere interactions to adequately address climate change issues? Does the U.S. have effective programs and national leadership to determine the roles of the open ocean, continental margins, coastal zones and estuarine areas in climate and climate change?

  10. International and Multi-Jurisdictional Issues: Many ocean issues are international in nature, including extractable minerals and a number of important stocks of living resources. Is the U.S. able to influence the international community significantly with regard to responsible and sustainable uses of the global ocean commons? How can the nation improve its performance in this regard? Are there specific and near-term opportunities for the US to take the lead in management of cross-jurisdictional fisheries resources such as those in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Maine or among highly migratory species? Can the U.S. help improve the structure of international institutions to simplify governance of the oceans around the globe?
Stewardship is about responsible use of our ocean and its resources, and it is about sustainability; thus, it is all about behavior, both societal and individual. Ocean constituencies focused principally on conservation, on use, or on managing ocean resources often see each of the questions (and many others) posed above from their different perspectives. The SWG aims not to look at these and related issues from the viewpoint of any one group or interested party, but rather from the point of view as to whether the necessary mechanisms are in place to enable the Nation to use its ocean resources in responsible and sustainable manners.


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