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An Ocean Policy for the 21st Century

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Council on Environmental Quality



September 2, 1999

At the National Ocean Conference last year in Monterey, President Clinton directed the Cabinet to report back with recommendations for a comprehensive ocean policy to guide federal efforts in the 21st century. In a report presented today to Vice President Al Gore, entitled "Turning to the Sea: American's Ocean Future," the Cabinet recommends nearly 150 actions to protect, restore, and explore America's ocean resources. The Vice President, in accepting the report, launched a high-level task force to oversee implementation of key recommendations.

Recommendations from the Cabinet include:

Sustaining Economic Benefits

  • Create new incentives to reduce overfishing, allowing fish stocks to recover and become more commercially viable.
  • Develop guidelines for environmentally sound and sustainable aquaculture and promote domestic and international compliance with them.
  • Increase support for sustainable harvesting and testing of marine resources with potential pharmaceutical benefits.
  • Help state, local and tribal governments adopt and implement sustainable development plans for coastal zones.

Maintaining Global Security

  • Work with the Senate to ensure that the United States joins the Law of the Sea Convention as soon as possible.
  • Improve U.S. capability to conduct surveillance, detection, identification, classification, and interdiction of maritime threats before they reach U.S. shores.
  • Coordinate initiatives to maintain and exercise freedom of navigation.

Protecting Marine Resources

  • Coordinate federal programs with "smart growth" initiatives at the local level.
  • Coordinate efforts among federal agencies to effectively address polluted runoff and other sources of coastal pollution.
  • Strengthen efforts to protect and restore essential fish habitat as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
  • Examine the concept of marine wilderness areas and its application to U.S. marine protected areas.

Discovering the Oceans

  • Improve coordination of data collection among coastal, open-ocean and seafloor observation stations and expand their data gathering capabilities.
  • Integrate relevant ocean science disciplines to advance basic and applied research in ocean and coastal issues.
  • Support expansion of underwater exploration by federal agencies and through private exploration initiatives.
  • Establish a nationally coordinated effort to improve and promote ocean science education.

To oversee implementation of the Cabinet recommendations, the Vice President announced a new high-level Oceans Report Task Force. The Task Force will prioritize the recommendations, appoint lead agencies for implementation of key recommendations, and meet quarterly to review progress. The Task Force will be co-chaired by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Deputy National Security Advisor and will include high-level representatives of agencies with responsibility for ocean affairs.

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An Ocean Policy for the 21st Century