As kids start to trade in their backpacks for beach towels, they’re not the only ones with their eyes toward the ocean. In a backdoor attack on our ocean health, some Republicans in Congress are trying to attach amendments that would put our oceans, beaches and economy at risk onto must-pass government spending legislation.
The target of these attacks is the National Ocean Policy (NOP), a landmark effort to safeguard our oceans and coasts, in much the same way the Clean Water Act protects our waters and the Clean Air Act reduces pollution in our air. Recommended by two separate bipartisan commissions, the National Ocean Policy will ensure that important habitats for fish and ocean wildlife remain intact, that our beaches are clean and that renewable energy facilities are located correctly to do the most good and the least harm.
As part of an ongoing effort to weaken environmental protections across the board, Republicans in Congress have launched a partisan attack to defund the National Ocean Policy. Falsely labeling it as additional bureaucracy, they’ve built fear around a common-sense management system for our oceans.
The reality is that the National Ocean Policy will reduce waste, inefficiency and delay in our government. Currently, more than 20 agencies and 140 laws govern our oceans, each with their own agendas and conflicting mandates. Management is often done on an ad hoc basis, without considering how the actions of one industry, such as oil and gas development, will affect other activities, such as fishing, tourism and recreation.
The National Ocean Policy is designed to bring order to this chaos and to ensure better stewardship of our valuable ocean resources. It will require that all agencies that play a role in ocean-related work finally coordinate their efforts. By engaging federal agencies with regional, state and tribal initiatives, the National Ocean Policy will ensure that stakeholders at every level have a say in the future of our oceans.
With our economy still struggling to recover, this smart ocean management will help preserve and create American jobs in ocean-related industries. In 2009 alone, ocean-related tourism and recreation generated more than 1.8 million jobs and contributed more than $61 billion to the nation’s GDP. That same year, the commercial fishing industry supported more than 1 million jobs. In fact, the U.S. ocean economy is larger than the entire U.S. farm sector.
This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It is well-documented that healthy oceans and coasts are essential to the U.S. economy, and that the stresses on our oceans—from over-exploitation to habitat destruction and coastal pollution—are only increasing. Undermining the National Ocean Policy now, all in the name of political one-upmanship, will have serious implications for the future of our oceans.
Send a message today to your representative, urging them to reject any amendments that would prohibit or restrict funding for implementation of the National Ocean Policy. Our leaders in Washington must be held responsible for ensuring the health of our oceans, coasts and the communities that depend on them.
This post was first published on NRDC's Switchboard blog.