- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy yesterday presented to the White House and Congress its final report calling for a “new national ocean policy” that includes changes in management to promote conservation and to ensure sustainable use of ocean resources.

President Bush, who appointed the panel, has 90 days under law to respond.

“The report delivers a vision for steering our ocean policy into the 21st century,” said Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, a coalition of environmentalists, fishermen and aquariums.

At a press briefing yesterday, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, did not offer the administration’s view of any of the more than 200 recommendations included in the report.

“I don’t want to prejudge those deliberations,” he said.

Mr. Connaughton said the White House’s final recommendations will “align the chief priorities in the report with the key priorities of the administration.”

But environmentalists were ready to enumerate changes that they say must be made to protect both oceans and the life they hold.

“The report’s conclusions are crystal clear: President Bush and Congress must act now to stop overfishing, overdevelopment, drift nets, bottom trawlers and other wasteful practices that are pushing the world’s marine systems to the point of collapse,” said Mark J. Spalding, senior program officer for the Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Alaska Oceans Program.

Last week, one of eight U.S. regional fishery-management councils — panels typically dominated by commercial and recreational fishermen — took action on its own to curtail at least one of the problems that Mr. Spalding addressed in a bid to protect deep-sea coral.

At its meeting Sept. 15, the New England Fishery Management Council voted to ban bottom trawling for monkfish in two deep-water canyons about 90 miles southeast of Nantucket, Mass.

The USCOP report outlines a new ocean-governance framework, which would include a National Ocean Council, an assistant to the president, and a President’s Council of Advisers at the national level.

The commission’s report also calls for decision making based more on science and conservation than short-term profits; incorporating ocean education into the classroom; and placing additional emphasis on watershed management.

The analysis estimates that the “total cost to implement the new ocean policy starts at $1.5 billion in the first year and rises to $3.9 billion in the out years.”

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