Obama’s Comprehensive Ocean Plan – It’s A Winner For Whales

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“With a clear National Policy and a revitalized, empowered, unified, and comprehensive framework to coordinate efforts set forth in these recommendations, we can achieve an America whose stewardship ensures that the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes are healthy and resilient, safe and productive, and understood and treasured so as to promote the well-being, prosperity, and security of present and future generations.” Final Recommendations Of The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force

Example of the Potential Benefits of CMSP: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (Photo Courtesy NOAA)

The creation of a National Ocean Council, designed to weave together the various threads of ocean regulation into a coherent plan with established goals, is long overdue. For too long agencies have worked in a disjointed manner, hamstrung by jurisdiction issues and local governance, often ignoring the input of scientists and the general public. By signing this executive order, Obama shows once again that he prefers to see the ‘big picture’, then address the issues in a logical, orderly manner.

The Council is designed to build upon its successes, such as the example above – what the picture shows is that major shipping routes were altered to reduce ship strikes to baleen whales:

Comprehensive planning enabled NOAA, the United States Coast Guard, and several other government agencies and stakeholders to examine shipping needs, proposed deepwater liquefied natural gas port locations, and endangered whale distribution in a successful effort to reconfigure the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) to reduce the risk of whale mortality due to collisions with ships in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
The reconfigured TSS reduced risk of collision by an estimated 81% for all baleen whales and 58% for endangered right whales. Industry TSS transit times increased by only 9 – 22 minutes (depending on speed) and conflict with deepwater ports was eliminated. In addition, the new route decreased the overlap between ships using the TSS, commercial fishing vessels, and whale watch vessels, thereby increasing maritime safety. CMSP has the significant potential of applying this integrated, multi-objective, multi-sector approach on a broader and sustained scale.
Diagram Courtesy of NOAA/Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

For the Southern Resident orcas, this could mean an enhanced response to the environmental issues that impede their population’s recovery, because the bureaucrats will be more closely tied to scientific input. This might even mean fewer dams and more salmon, as well as focused environmental clean-up.

We all win.

Excerpted from The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and Final Recommendations Of The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force

Obama Administration officials released the Final Recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force on July 19, 2010, which would establish a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes (National Policy) and create a National Ocean Council (NOC) to strengthen ocean governance and coordination. The Final Recommendations prioritize actions for the NOC to pursue, and call for a flexible framework for coastal and marine spatial planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes.

The Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and resulting environmental crisis is a stark reminder of how vulnerable our marine environments are, and how much communities and our Nation rely on healthy and resilient ocean and coastal ecosystems. The ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes deeply impact the lives of all Americans, whether we live and work in the country’s heartland or along its shores. America’s rich and productive coastal regions and waters support tens of millions of jobs and contribute trillions of dollars to the national economy each year. They also host a growing number of important activities, including recreation, science, commerce, transportation, energy development, and national security and they provide a wealth of natural resources and ecological benefits.

Final Recommendations Of The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force

1. Support sustainable, safe, secure, efficient, and productive uses of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes, including those that contribute to the economy, commerce, recreation, conservation, homeland and national security, human health, safety, and welfare;

2. Protect, maintain, and restore the Nation’s ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources and ensure resilient ecosystems and their ability to provide sustained delivery of ecosystem services;

3. Provide for and maintain public access to the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes;

4. Promote compatibility among uses and reduce user conflicts and environmental impacts;

5. Improve the rigor, coherence, efficiency, and consistency of decision-making and
regulatory processes;

6. Increase certainty and predictability in planning for and implementing new investments
for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes uses; and

7. Enhance interagency, intergovernmental, and international communication and

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