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September 20, 2004 News Release

U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy
Presents Final Report
An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century

White House Must Respond
Within 90-Day Window

Washington, D.C.  -- Calling for urgent and decisive action on a new national ocean policy, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy submitted its Final Report to President Bush and Congress today.

The report, An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, calls for the establishment of a new national ocean policy that balances use with sustainability, is based on sound science and educational excellence, and moves toward an ecosystem-based management approach.

As mandated by the Oceans Act of 2000, the President must now submit to Congress his statement of proposals to implement or respond to the Commission's findings and recommendations within 90 days.

"It's no secret that our nation's oceans and coasts are in serious trouble.  It's also clear that as a nation we must rise to the challenge today to reverse the damage to our oceans and change the way we manage them before it is too late," said Admiral James D. Watkins, USN (Ret.), Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. "Rising to this challenge will not be easy. It will require strong leadership from the President and Congress, great political will, new fiscal investment, and strong public support. But, in the long run, all Americans will benefit. "

The Commission's Final Report contains 212 recommendations, and a consolidated analysis of the costs involved in implementing the Commission's recommendations.  Based on the Commission's analysis, the total cost to implement a new ocean policy starts at $1.5 billion the first year, and rises to $3.9 billion in the out years. Watkins stressed that the funding levels proposed by the Commission represented a modest investment to protect what is arguably one of the nation's greatest economic and natural resources.

"The oceans are among nature's greatest gifts to us," Watkins told members of Congress as he delivered the Commission's Final Report. "If Congress and the President follow the Commission's lead, we can reclaim and renew that gift for ourselves, for our children, and – if we do the job right – for those whose footprints will mark the sands of beaches from South Carolina to Alaska long after ours have washed away."

The last comprehensive review of U.S. Ocean Policy was conducted 35 years ago by the Stratton Commission. Since then our nation's oceans and coasts have changed drastically. Ocean-related industries such as fisheries, tourism, and maritime trade directly contribute more than $117 billion annually to the American economy and support well over two million jobs. Economic activity in coastal watershed counties accounts for nearly 76 million jobs and over $4.5 trillion annually, fully one-half of the nation's gross domestic product. More than 37 million people, 19 million homes, and countless businesses have been added to coastal areas.

These developments, however, come with costs -- our water quality has been degraded, our fisheries depleted, our recreational areas despoiled, our wetlands drained, our own health and security endangered, and the economic viability of our oceans and coasts compromised. Of the nation's 259 major fish stocks (99 percent of total commercial landings), 20 percent are either overfished or experiencing overfishing. Every year, more than 28 million gallons of oil from human activities enter North American waters – over half of that coming from activities on the land. Over 500 invasive species have become established in coastal and marine habitats of North America, including zebra mussels that clog the Great Lakes and an alien pathogen that has decimated native oyster stocks in the Chesapeake Bay.

When Congress passed the Oceans Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-256), it acknowledged both the costs and the significance of the oceans and coasts to this country. Pursuant to the Act, the President appointed 16 members from diverse backgrounds to the Commission. The Commission's mandate was to establish findings and develop recommendations for a new and comprehensive national ocean policy.

The Commission began its work in September 2001, with a series of nine regional meetings and 18 additional site visits in every coastal region of the country and the Great Lakes. The Commission held a total of 16 public meetings between 2001 and 2004, heard testimony from 440 experts, including many of the nation's top ocean scientists and researchers, environmental organizations, industry, citizens and government officials, and received written comments from countless others. It was the most comprehensive and thorough review ever conducted of the nation's oceans and coasts.

After significant thought, careful deliberations, and the consideration of a wide range of potential solutions, the Commission released its Preliminary Report on April 20, 2004. The report was then sent to the nation's Governors and other stakeholders for review. After receiving and reviewing comments from 37 governors, five tribal leaders and more than 800 other interested stakeholders, the Commission made changes to the Preliminary Report. These changes were discussed and a draft Final Report was approved at a public meeting on July 22, 2004.

An electronic copy of the pre-publication version of the Final Report, along with the supplemental reports, is available on the Commission website.

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Scott Treibitz, (703) 276-2772 ext 11
David Roscow, (703) 276-2772 ext 21
Kate Naughten, (202) 418-3465



Revised October 07, 2004 by Ocean Commission Webmaster
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