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Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Obama’s New Ocean Policy Means for Protecting Oceans, Waves, & Beaches

On July 19, President Obama made history by establishing the first comprehensive National Ocean Policy for the United States. His executive order not only reaffirms the nation’s commitment to protecting our oceans and coasts, it also defines new approaches for how we get there. For too long, our ocean resources have been managed in a piecemeal way, with ecosystems - and those who value them - getting the short end of the stick. While an executive order doesn’t solve everything, it is a major step forward. Some highlights of the National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes include:

• A commitment to protect, maintain and restore ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems.
• Dedication to maintaining public access to our coasts and waters.
• A regional approach that promotes improved cooperation among federal, state, tribal, and local entities
• The use of marine spatial planning to ensure that new uses of the ocean minimize impacts to the environment and existing uses like recreation and fishing
• Establishment of a National Ocean Council to guide implementation of the new national ocean policy
• Substantial stakeholder and public input to ensure that local and regional needs are considered and addressed.

All this is great, you may be thinking, but why should we care? That’s a valid question for any Surfrider activist entrenched in local battles to save our coasts. In simplest terms, a national ocean policy matters because it provides top-down guidance to federal agencies to prioritize protection of the ecosystem. What Obama’s executive order - and the funding and legislation that will hopefully follow - represents is an improved framework for ocean planning and decision-making. Does this mean that all the local battles to save our coasts and oceans will suddenly evaporate? Absolutely not, but it should certainly help level the playing field in our favor. And, that alone is valuable and worth celebrating.

To read the new National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes please click here. Also, we encourage you to check out the recently updated Wear Blue for the Ocean website where you can access more information and send comments to President Obama thanking him for establishing a National Ocean Policy.


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