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World Oceans Day: Time to Stop the War on Our Oceans

06/07/2013 11:40 am ET | Updated Aug 07, 2013

On June 8, we celebrate World Oceans Day, but all is not well with the sea. There is a war on our oceans, and it's a fight we can't afford to lose.

The enemy is within -- it is us -- it is our generation failing the next. It is what we have allowed ourselves and our society to become. It is what we have tolerated and accepted from our representatives in Congress for far too long.

In our apathy, in our absence to speak and our failure to act, we have emboldened and empowered a disengaged fringe group of politicians who are intent on blocking and dismantling vital ocean conservation measures.

On our watch, we have left our youngest, our most innocent and vulnerable, precious children, with an uncertain future on a planet that may not be able to sustain them -- all because we are not holding our government accountable.

As a society, we all share in the blame, as we have mindlessly ignored the warning signs time and time again, and passively watched the systematic destruction of the oceans blue building blocks; the very foundation upon which our planet and the next generation's future depends.

There are obstructionists in Congress who know no shame and have no scruples. They are more resolved to hurting our President, than helping our country. And the environment -- particularly the ocean -- has fallen victim. But not every member of Congress means to do harm to the oceans.

I count myself amongst the fortunate; I'm represented in Washington by Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA). Congressman Farr coined the phrase "war on our oceans" and he should know, because he is on both the frontline and the shoreline, fighting for our oceans every day.

Thanks in great part to Congressman Farr and many other good, hardworking and well-meaning members of Congress, we have a National Ocean Policy, but President Obama had to sign it into law by executive order on July 19, 2010, because the Republicans in Congress wouldn't act.

Three years later, implementation of the National Ocean Policy still remains elusive, as Republicans in the House continue to withhold funding. Even when called to task on the House floor as Congressman Farr does here in May 2012, little has changed in the intervening time and the stonewalling continues to this day.

On April 16, 2013, the Obama Administration announced its final plan for translating the National Ocean Policy into on-the-ground actions to benefit the American people. You can read the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan below:

Just two days after the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan was released, the Republican attacks on our oceans began anew:

"Despite a lot of new rhetoric in the Implementation Plan, I still am concerned that this National Ocean Policy has no statutory basis, creates uncertainty for the regulated community, will create marine and coastal zoning plans without direct stakeholder input, will lead to new restrictions on inland activities, and is taking financial resources away from existing priorities of Federal agencies."

Opening statement of Chairman John Fleming (R-LA), Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs - April 18, 2013.

So where do we go from here?

The Republican leadership shows no humility, expresses no remorse and makes no apology for dividing our nation into factions of red and blue -- orchestrating an ideological civil war, not just a war on our oceans. They have pitted neighbor against neighbor, replaced promise with greed, and leveraged the prosperity of this generation against hope for the next. All in the name of profit for a privileged few.

Time and time again we see policies for the good of our nation and for all humankind taking a backseat to political agendas and the posturing of ideologues solely for political gain in the next election cycle.

From day one, there are those who have concertedly worked to defeat everything President Obama proposed, for purely partisan political reasons, and who continue to refuse to act in bi-partisan cooperation for the good of our country and the health of our planet

There are climate change deniers in Congress who shamefully challenge truth armed with nothing more than energy industry lies, and who continually question best science practices for preserving our nation's vital natural resources for generations to come.

These unscrupulous politicians openly and proudly treat environmental protection with disdain and attempt to undermine scientific fact with their own corporate brand of bible-thumping special-interest babble. No science, just fiction.

The oceans shouldn't be politicized as many Republicans in Congress have done. But they started it -- this war on our oceans -- and now it is up to us to finish it, to undo the damage and re-think the future.

We can't continue to sit idly by, claiming we don't have the money to fight the rich, the powerful and the privileged -- those who indiscriminately drill and mine and fish and pollute and exploit our oceans for their profit, and we don't have too.

Protecting the oceans isn't about political power; it's about empowering the people. Forget about Citizens United. We have our voices and we have our votes, and if we have the will to win, that's all we need. We will prevail in protecting the oceans.

Always remember, this fight is not about us; it's about the children and the grandchildren who will come after them. It's about the next generation, and that reality must remain vigilant on our conscience until real ocean protection measures are in place, ensuring a robust and vital life-support system for all life on this tiny blue planet.

Members of Congress are supposed to represent us and our interests. But if we don't tell them what we want and what our interests are, then we only have ourselves to blame when they lead us down a dark path we didn't choose and don't support.

If this Congress can't deliver sustainable ocean policies, then we need to start aggressively vetting the next generation of leaders who will. We'll start by asking them what they stand for, and if they can't give us a straight answer, if they can't look us in the eye and state with certainty and conviction a commitment to protect and nurture healthy oceans, then they stand for nothing, and they don't deserve our vote.

For every one of us fighting for the oceans today, there needs to be a hundred more tomorrow and a hundred more the day after and the day after that, until our living rooms, our schools, chambers of commerce, corporate board rooms and every level of government from your city council to the White House, is filled with ocean advocates who get it, who understand, and who appreciate that the ocean is life.

Critical environmental challenges facing our nation are addressed in the National Ocean Policy. But the policy itself continues to be in jeopardy of never being fully implemented or funded. It's not because of a lack of need, fact or science. It's because of politics, plain and simple, and that's just not right.

I expect more from my government, you should too, and it's time Congress understands that!