The ocean is vital to the health of the planet and to human survival. It provides critical habitat for marine species, helps regulate climate, and provides half the oxygen we breathe. It provides food, energy, shipping lanes and of course, incredible recreation.
Given all of the ocean’s diverse functions, it’s no surprise that 20 different Federal agencies have jurisdiction over some aspect of our oceans, coasts and great lakes, and that over 140 different laws govern ocean issues. This patchwork system can best be described as managed chaos, and while it is well intentioned, it is no match for the growing threats our marine resources face from poorly planned coastal development, pollution and now climate change.
On July 19, 2010, President Obama recognized this and signed an Executive Order establishing a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes. The National Ocean Policy “includes a set of overarching guiding principles for management decisions and actions toward achieving the visions of ‘an America whose stewardship ensures that the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes are healthy and resilient, safe and productive, and understood and treasured so as to promote the well-being, prosperity, and security of present and future generations.”
Ocean Champions played a key role as part of a broader coalition in obtaining the President’s Executive Order. Before the National Ocean Policy Executive Order was crafted, this work involved moving H.R. (Oceans) 21, a sweeping bill that addressed many shortcomings in how our oceans are governed. The coalition engaged in opportunities to advance Oceans 21, as well as its individual components, and worked closely with the Council on Environmental Quality and the President’s task force to deliver a strong National Ocean Policy. Ocean Champions continues to work with the Administration and with our friends on Capitol Hill to reform ocean governance.