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Media Advisory, July 19, 2010

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 658-5308 or miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

White House's New National Ocean Policy a Welcome Sign, But Lacks Assurances to Protect Our Oceans

SAN FRANCISCO— Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity, issued the following statement today in response to the Obama administration’s Final Recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force, which would establish a “National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes” and create a new governing body for oceans called the National Ocean Council:

“Our oceans are in urgent need of a coordinated approach for their conservation and management, and this new national policy is a step in the right direction. Our oceans face numerous threats, from overfishing and pollution to climate change and acidification. The policy announced today acknowledges that our country needs to initiate a comprehensive program to ensure healthy and productive oceans and coasts for generations to come.

“The Obama administration’s proposal creates a governance structure for the management of the oceans and sets out a program for marine spatial planning — which, like zoning on land, would designate certain areas for diverse uses such as drilling, fishing, shipping and protection. But the proposal lacks guarantees for conservation and biodiversity protection. And the overwhelming need for prevention of climate change and ocean acidification is also overlooked by the policy. Instead the Obama administration focuses on adapting to these changes, while completely ignoring what we need to do to avoid allowing them to escalate into potentially devastating environmental transformation.

“In light of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it is painfully clear that we need to exercise precaution when it comes to exploiting the ocean’s resources. Inexcusable gaps in government oversight of the oil industry allowed drilling plans to evade environmental review and set the course for what has become this country’s worst environmental disaster. It’s critical that the new national policy and National Ocean Council provide safeguards that protect marine ecosystems and wildlife.

“The policy announced today is a good and necessary step toward coordinated planning and conservation, but we have yet to see if it will translate into good management. We need continued public participation to secure better assurances that decisions under this policy are based on sound science and are made with conservation and restoration as a primary goal and the precautionary principle in mind.”


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