WASHINGTON - January 30 - Today, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (JOCI) issued a report card giving the nation an overall C- grade for actions taken to improve our oceans in 2006. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) responded by outlining steps Congress and the President can take to reverse the decline in ocean health.
“This is a crucial economic and environmental challenge. Millions of Americans depend on the oceans for work, for recreation, and for the food on their plates. Congress and the administration should be working hard to raise the grade by providing more resources and creating stronger safeguards for the marine environment,” said John Adams, founding director of NRDC and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, which developed key recommendations that are, in part, behind this report’s grading system.
For starters, NRDC says Congress should ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, enact a comprehensive system of ocean protection, and increase funding for ocean research and conservation. Strong ocean legislation on a federal level is essential to restoring the health of our oceans and ocean economies.
For its part, the administration should issue new regulations to ensure an end to overexploitation of our nation’s fisheries and their rapid restoration. Additionally, the administration should work with the international community to put an end to illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing in international waters, including unregulated bottom trawl fishing.
On Friday, President Bush called for an increase of funding for ocean science and management and released a new ocean research strategy. While these proposals are a step in the right direction, they have serious shortfalls, according to NRDC.
To fund ocean research activities in fiscal year 2008, the President requested $143 million more than he requested for 2007. This ignores the fact that he called for significant cuts in ocean funding in fiscal year 2007. If the President’s fiscal 2008 request were enacted -- even with this new funding for oceans -- the overall result would still be a cut in funding for ocean research and management as compared to 2006 levels.
By contrast, the JOCI has recommended that Congress appropriate an additional $747 million above 2006 levels.
“The White House is passing off a cut in ocean funding as a budget increase,” said John Adams. “The President deserves credit for laying out a visionary ocean research agenda but without a commitment of new funds this vision will not be realized.”