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September 19, 2001 News Release:
Presidential Commission on Ocean Policy Elects Admiral James D. Watkins as Chairman

The Commission on Ocean Policy (see Commissioners' Biographies) named Admiral James D. Watkins, U.S. Navy (Retired) chairman of the commission during its first gathering. The meetings were held on Monday and Tuesday, September 17 and 18 in Washington, DC. The 16-member commission, appointed by President Bush, is undertaking an 18-month investigation of oceans-related issues and will make far-reaching recommendations to the president and Congress for a comprehensive national ocean policy, including the Great Lakes.

Over the next year and a half, the commission will assess a wide range of challenging issues, including stewardship of fisheries and marine life; responsible use of offshore oil, gas and non-living resources; coastal storms and other natural hazards; ocean and coastal pollution; marine transportation; the role of oceans in climate change; oceanographic science and technologies; and international leadership and cooperation in marine affairs.

James Connaughton, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of State for Global Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Christie Whitman, and Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans spoke during the first meeting and stressed the importance of the oceans to the nation’s economy and security and of the need to protect and conserve ocean resources for this and future generations. They reiterated the Administration’s support for the Commission. The meeting consisted primarily of organizational issues, including establishing four committees on Governance; Stewardship; Research, Education and Marine Operations; and Investment and Development and electing a chairman.

“I am honored to chair this commission. The United States has not investigated its relationship with the oceans since 1969 when the only previous Presidential Commission made its report, 'Our Nation and the Sea,'” said Admiral James D. Watkins U.S. Navy (Retired), chairman of the commission. “Yet, the nation and its use of the oceans have changed dramatically in the interim, crying for an urgent and comprehensive readdressal of our nation's ocean policy.”

Established by federal legislation, the Commission on Ocean Policy is charged with reviewing the effects of federal ocean-related laws and programs. The Oceans Act of 2000 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 world’s oceans. The Act requires the commission to consider environmental, technical, economic, and scientific factors in the course of its deliberations.

The commission is also charged with assessing the relationship among federal, state, and local governments and the private sector in carrying out ocean and coastal activities. The governors of coastal states will be provided the opportunity to assess the commission’s draft report and their comments will be incorporated into the final report to the president and Congress.

The National Academy of Sciences’ Ocean Studies Board is to help establish a science advisory panel to assist in ensuring the scientific reports presented to the commission are based on the best available scientific information. During the course of its one-and-a-half year study, the Commission is required to hold six regional meetings around the country.

The members of the commission were appointed by President Bush, following procedures established by the Oceans Act. The president appointed 12 commissioners from among a list of 24 people who were nominated by Congress. In addition, the president directly selected four additional commissioners.

The last similar review of the nation’s ocean laws and policies was conducted in the late 1960s under similar legislation. Commonly known as the Stratton Commission, after its chairman Julius Stratton, that commission’s 1969 report led to the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the passage of major legislation governing fisheries and coastal management.

“Scientific and public policy experts from all sectors are calling for the kind of attention to the oceans of inner-space during the next 50 years that we devoted to outer space during the last 50,” Watkins said. “Today's Commission on Ocean Policy has been challenged by the Congress and the President to help lead the way. That is precisely what we plan to do."

Within 120 days of delivery of the commission’s report, the Act requires the president to submit to Congress proposals and responses to the commission’s recommendations.

The next meeting is scheduled for November 13 and 14 and will also be held in Washington, D.C.



Revised July 03, 2002 by Ocean Commission Webmaster
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