U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- Six months before the first man landed on the
moon, a presidential commission urged Congress to use more ``fully
and wisely'' a different sort of vastness, one teeming with life but
just as mysterious and far closer to home -- the world's oceans.
More than three decades later, a second presidential commission,
led by a retired admiral who headed the Energy Department in the
first Bush administration, says the urgency is even greater than when
the Eagle landed.
``The oceans are in trouble; the coasts are in trouble; our marine
resources are in trouble. These are not challenges we can sweep
aside,'' said James Watkins, sounding more like a lifelong
environmentalist than a former chief of naval operations and national
Since the last commission's report in early 1969, pressures have
increased on coastal areas that are home to half the nation's
population. Ocean resources once thought boundless are now recognized
as having limits.
About 40,000 acres of coastal wetlands providing essential
spawning, feeding and nursery areas for three-fourths of U.S.
commercial fish catches are disappearing each year, says the new U.S.
Commission on Ocean Policy, now halfway through an 18-month study.
Of the fully assessed U.S. fish stocks, 40 percent are depleted or
are being overfished, the commission says in an interim report being
released this week. Also, 12 billion tons of ballast water from ships
are spreading invasive alien species to new locales around world.
The panel points to a need for consolidating the federal and state
governments' myriad and often conflicting policies affecting oceans.
``Individuals who work and live on the water, from fishers to
corporations, face a Byzantine patchwork of federal and state
authorities and regulations,'' the commission said. It cited more
than 140 federal ocean-related laws administered by nearly 20
different agencies and commissions.
``We're already assuming that there has to be a national ocean
policy coordinating body,'' Watkins said.
The commission found that:
Watkins' commission follows in the long silent footsteps of the
Stratton Commission, which on Jan. 9, 1969, released its 300-page
oceans report just days before Lyndon Johnson handed over the White
House to Richard Nixon.
Its recommendations led to creation of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration in 1970 and the Coastal Zone Management
Act of 1976 and Fi shery Conservation and Management Act of 1976.
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