Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Obama Administration Releases Plan to Implement National Oceans Policy

The Obama Administration has released its final plan for the National Oceans Policy, one that the administration says will promote ocean economy and resilience. White House officials said on April 16 that the plan focuses on improving coordination to speed federal permitting decisions and better manage ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources that help drive the nation’s economy. The plan will ensure that federal agencies involved in ocean management work together to reduce duplication and red tape and use taxpayer dollars more efficiently, White House officials said.

President Obama created the National Oceans Policy by executive order on July 19, 2010. The international oceans advocacy organization Oceana applauded the plan, saying it builds on earlier reports by the Interagency Arctic Working Group and US Geological Survey in calling for integrated science to guide decisions involving the nation’s ocean resources. It also makes important commitments that will further the identification and protection of important ecological areas. “For the Arctic in particular, with drastic reductions of sea ice allowing access to new places, it is imperative that we have the best scientific information, including local and traditional knowledge, to make informed decisions for conservation and development,” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s deputy vice president, Pacific.

“Oceana is further encouraged to see the Obama Administration commit to implementing ecosystem based management, identifying important ecological areas, and improving spill response and preparedness,” she said.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said the oceans policy plan incorporates some of his key recommendations. Among changes critical for Alaska in the new plan, said Begich, is one that makes explicit that participation in planning is entirely voluntary. “If Alaska or any state wishes to opt out, it can,” Begich said. “No regional planning body would be formed if a state in the region doesn’t want it.”

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