January 10, 2002 News Release
Commission Sets Course For Historic New Policy On Oceans
U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy Takes First Look at Ocean Legislation In 36 Years
Commission Launches Tour to Nine Major Coastal Regions
January 14 in Charleston, SC and Annapolis, MD
Preservation and Utilization of the Worlds Oceans and Their Resources At Stake
Final Report to Congress and President Due in Spring 2003
Washington, D.C. Recommendations for the development of a comprehensive national ocean policy to most effectively preserve and utilize the worlds oceans and their resources is the challenge facing the new U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy as it launches an 18-month probe into our coastal policies. Over the next nine months, it will conduct meetings in nine major coastal regions beginning with in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Chesapeake Bay Region (Annapolis, MD) on January 14.
The 16-member Commission authorized by Congress and appointed by President Bush will undertake an in-depth investigation into the problems coastal regions confront in their dealings with ocean and coastal management. They will assess numerous challenging issues rangi g from the stewardship of fisheries and marine life to the responsible use of offshore oil and gas to the relationship among federal, state, and local governments and the private sector in carrying out ocean and coastal activities.
In the 36 years since the bulk of our federal oceans policies were created, our nation, the world and our oceans have changed drastically, said Admiral James D. Watkins, U.S. Navy (retired), chair of the Commission. Our coastal populations have exploded resulting in a boom in coastal development and economies, oceans-based international trade has risen dramatically, and oceans laws and regulations have become a bureaucratic nightmare.
By the year 2025, about 75 percent of Americans will live in coastal areas. Over 40 percent of new commercial and residential development is along the coast, and marine-related industries play a significant role in the national economy with 95 percent of our international trade shipped on the ocean. By 2010, U.S. foreign trade is projected to more than double todays value, reaching $5 trillion in constant dollars significantly adding to the stress on U.S. port facilities. Coastal tourism, with an ever-increasing 180 million visitors annually, currently accounts for 85 percent of tourism-related revenues.
Coastal areas, which are essential spawning, feeding, and nursery areas and account for over three-quarters of U.S. commercial fish catches, are disappearing at a rate of 20,000 acres each year. Louisiana alone has lost half a million acres of wetlands since the mid 1950s, and the Gulf of Mexico now suffers from a commerce-stifling 7,700 square mile dead zone, likely a result of pollution flowing from the Mississippi River.
It is long overdue that we take a serious look at the policies and programs of our oceans and develop a streamlined federal oceans policy for today and the future -- one that is sensible and balanced for fishermen, environmentalists, corporations, state and federal authorities and everyone with a stake in ocean interests, Admiral Watkins continued.
At each coastal region the Commission will conduct site visits to oceans-related facilities including offshore oil rigs, oceanographic vessels, fisheries, and maritime and port facilities. In addition, public hearings will be held to hear the concerns and comments of local businesses, organizations, citizens and government authorities.
The coastal regions the Commission will be visiting and conducting meetings are: Tampa Bay, Florida in February; New Orleans, Louisiana in March; Los Angeles, California in April, Hawaii in May; Seattle, Washington in June; Anchorage, Alaska in July; Boston, Massachusetts in August; and Chicago, Illinois in September.
Mandated by Oceans Act of 2000, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy is charged with reviewing the effects of federal ocean-related laws and programs. This federal legislation requires the Commission to establish findings and make recommendations for reducing duplication, improving efficiency, enhancing cooperation and modifying the structure of federal agencies involved in the worlds oceans. Following the procedures from the Oceans Act President Bush appointed the16 Commissioners, 12 of whom were selected from a list nominated by Congress.
The Commission will present its findings and recommendations in a final report to Congress and the President in the spring of 2003.
Media Note: All events are open to the media. Call contact for credentials and agendas to all coastal region site visits and hearings.