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July 28, 2004 News Release

U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy
Prepares for Delivery of Final Report,
An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century

Washington, D.C. — In its final public meeting on July 22, 2004, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy re-emphasized that the nation’s oceans and coasts are in serious trouble and underscored the urgent need for decisive action on a new national ocean policy – one that balances use with sustainability, is based on sound science and educational excellence, and moves toward an ecosystem-based management approach.

“Reform of national ocean policy needs to start this year, and accelerate next year and the year after, while it is still possible to reverse distressing declines,  seize exciting opportunities, and sustain the oceans, coasts and their valuable assets for future generations.  We can’t wait even five or 10 years to make changes or it will be too late,” said Commission Chairman Retired U.S. Navy Admiral James D. Watkins.

At the meeting, the 16-member Commission approved changes to its Preliminary Report and directed staff to prepare the Final Report for delivery to the President and Congress within the next several weeks.

Once the report is delivered, the President is then directed by the Oceans Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-256) to consult with state and local governments, and other non-federal stakeholders, prior to submitting to Congress his statement of proposals to implement or respond to the Commission’s recommendations. The President’s response is due within 90 days after he receives and considers the final report. The Commission’s Final Report, officially titled, “An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century” by the Commissioners, is expected to guide the development of a national ocean policy for the next few decades.

“Action by the Administration is just one element of a suite of changes that will be undertaken by all stakeholders involved in ocean policy -- that includes Congress, the states, territories, tribes, industry, academia, and the public.  Many of the needed actions will take much longer than 90 days to develop and implement,” said Watkins.

The Draft Final Report includes a number of significant changes (pdf, 132kb), both general and specific, made in response to the comments.  The following were general changes. Specific changes to each part of the report are available for viewing on the Commission website:

  • The report has been revised to further emphasize the important role of states, and to clarify that the Commission favors a balanced, not a “top down” approach of shared responsibility to ocean and coastal issues. 
  • The draft clarifies the Commission’s intent to embrace all coastal areas and decision makers, including the Great Lakes, U.S. territories, and tribes.
  • Many sections of the report have been revised to address the issue of climate change and its impacts on the oceans and coasts.
  • The importance of cultural heritage in connection with the ocean has been more fully recognized and addressed.
  • Discussions about the funding needed to implement recommendations have been consolidated into an expanded Chapter 30.

The changes to the Preliminary Report were made in response to comments received from governors, stakeholders and other technical experts. Summaries of the governors’ and public comments and the complete text of governors’ comments are available on the Commission’s website,

“The response to our Preliminary Report was overwhelming,” said Watkins. “Most important, the governors and others we heard from agree with our major premise – that we need to change the way we manage our oceans and coasts.”

Watkins also noted that Congressional support for the report has been strong. “To date, we have testified before four Congressional committees, and there, too, support for the Commission’s conclusions has been strong and bipartisan – a solid and valuable foundation for getting legislation passed to enact our recommendations,” he said. He also highlighted the growing list of new ocean policy and research bills in Congress, and added, “I applaud all of those initiatives.” 

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Mandated by the Congress through the Oceans Act and appointed by the President, the Commission conducted the first comprehensive review of U.S. ocean policy in 35 years. The Commission began its work in September 2001, conducting a series of 16 public meetings and 18 site visits in every coastal region of the country and the Great Lakes to learn firsthand about the most pressing issues facing the nation regarding the use and stewardship of ocean and coastal resources.

On April 20, 2004, the Commission released its Preliminary Report based on information presented at those meetings and the latest scientific and technical information on oceans and coasts. April 20th also marked the beginning of the comment period for governors and the public, which ended on June 4, 2004.  The Commission received comments from 37 governors, five tribal leaders, one regional governor’s association and 800 interested stakeholders. For more information on the Commission, go to:


Kate Naughten, (202) 418-3442
David Roscow 703/276-2772 ext. 21



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