Obama Administration Looks to the Oceans

A White House task force is recommending a new National Ocean Council, which for the first time will attempt to develop national policy surrounding the United States' use and treatment of oceans, coastlines and lakes. As industry demand for ocean space grows, the new Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force is working to consolidate the 140 laws and 20 federal agencies currently presiding over the nation's use and treatment of our waterways.

Although climate change is perhaps the most prominent environmental issue in the news these days, the state of the oceans takes a close second. Algal blooms caused by fertilizers and other pollutants are killing marine life at alarming rates, as are excessive levels of acidifying CO2. About 22 million tons of CO2 are absorbed by the oceans every day. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of Texas, swirls 1,000 miles off the coast of California. And every eight months, oil in amounts rivaling the Exxon Valdez spill collectively seeps into oceans from runoff on driveways and roads.

Is this a tragedy of the commons, or an opportunity for positive change? Luckily, the Obama Administration is tackling the problem as opportunity, calling for new ideas and regulation related to marine spatial planning. Demand for ocean and coastal space is growing faster than ever. Along with traditional uses such as commercial fishing and shipping, oceans are now being tapped for oil reserves, deepwater wind farms, wave and tidal power. At the same time, commercial interests require oversight to ensure protection of marine life and water quality.

Click here for a detailed read of the White House task force plan.