National Ocean Policy: A Path to America’s Ocean Future

Testimony Before the House Committee on Natural Resources

SOURCE: Center for American Progress

CAP Director of Ocean Policy Michael Conathan testifies before the House Committee on Natural Resources. Read this testimony. (CAP Action)

Good morning Chairman Hastings, Ranking Member Markey, and members of the Committee. I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today to address the implications of the executive order establishing a National Ocean Policy. My name is Michael Conathan and I serve as the Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress. CAP’s ocean program focuses on supporting science-based policies and finding solutions that balance the socioeconomic and environmental needs of Americans and our ocean and coastal space.

In 2004 the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy released its final report, "An Ocean Blueprint." This report, commissioned by a Republican-led Congress and written by a panel of experts appointed by President George W. Bush, included a lynchpin recommendation that the president "begin immediately to implement a national ocean policy by establishing the [National Ocean Council] … through an executive order." The report went on to suggest that the NOC work with all tiers of government, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and academia to create regional ocean councils to implement the National Ocean Policy at a regional scale.

The previous year, an independent report issued by the Pew Ocean Commission chaired by current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also called out the need to better integrate federal agency oversight of ocean space via implementation of a National Ocean Policy establishing a framework to “reflect an understanding of the land-sea connection and organize institutions and forums… [which] must be accessible, inclusive, and accountable. Decisions should be founded upon the best available science and flow from processes that are equitable, transparent, and collaborative.”

In July 2009 President Barack Obama answered this call by announcing the first National Ocean Policy and the creation of a National Ocean Council tasked with its implementation, pursuant to Executive Order 13547. Subsequently, the panel issued a list of nine priorities for management of our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes. Among these priorities is the concept of comprehensive ocean planning, or coastal and marine spatial planning. This concept recognizes that as new potential uses of ocean space become increasingly viable, our exclusive economic zone—the area of ocean space extending out to 200 miles from our shores—will grow more crowded. Thus in order to ensure efficient prioritization of both new and existing uses and to reduce conflicts, managers must solicit input from a diverse group of stakeholders up front rather than allowing a first-come, first-served land grab mentality to dictate how our invaluable ocean resources will be allocated. Absent such an initiative, the status quo provides a cart-before-the-horse approach that reduces certainty, impedes the likelihood of private investment, fails to adequately protect existing uses including fisheries and recreation, and delays appropriate, beneficial development with an endless stream of lawsuits.

CAP Director of Ocean Policy Michael Conathan testifies before the House Committee on Natural Resources. Read this testimony. (CAP Action)