America’s oceans and coasts are amazing resources that have benefited our economy, our culture and our way of life for centuries. In New England our ocean and coasts are also home to some of the country’s most unique and valuable wildlife areas and serve as refuge for endangered wildlife species. At the same time, New England’s coastal communities continue to depend on the resources, tourism and outstanding quality of life that our ocean and coasts provide.
Our oceans and coasts face great challenges, and these challenges are growing tougher. As my cool surfing colleague Robin Just has noted, sea levels are rising 3 to 4 times faster along the east coast than the global average, according a new study by the United States Geological Survey. The rising waters put us at unique risk from the changes that are happening to our ocean and will “increase the vulnerability of coastal cities to flooding, and beaches and wetlands to deterioration,” according to the report. How will we solve these challenges?
Thanks to the National Ocean Policy, we have a better way to make management decisions and to create solutions by using the best data, latest information and, most importantly, by working together. At its core, the National Ocean Policy directs federal agencies to coordinate management activities, implement a science-based system of decision making, support safe and sustainable access and ocean uses, respect cultural practices and maritime heritage, and increase scientific understanding of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems. Regional Ocean Planning, a science-based process of improving decisions about ocean resources before conflict arises, involves everyone who has a stake in ocean management, including towns and cities, scientists, fishermen, conservation groups, recreational users, and businesses. Through better planning, the National Ocean Policy will allow us to take full advantage of our resources in a sustainable manner which will improve the health of the United States environment and economy.
The National Ocean Policy turns two years old on July 19, and while the National Ocean Council is making great strides, so much more is necessary to ensure that we are using this important tool to tackle these great challenges. Given how important fisheries, coastal tourism and other ocean industries are to our region’s economy and way of life, we need New England’s governors and federal officials to support the full implementation of the National Ocean Policy.