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Great Lakes Article:

Saving the oceans
The Berkshire Eagle
May 4, 2004

The conclusion of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) last week that the world's oceans are in serious trouble and quick action is needed to stem the tide is hardly surprising but is demoralizing nonetheless. The welfare of America's coastal waters is of critical importance to mankind, and the United States continues to shrug off efforts to preserve them at its peril.

The preliminary report of the commission, formed three years ago by Congress, revealed there is much to be worried about and time is of the essence in addressing these problems. The East Coast suffers from depleted fish populations, which have all but ruined the Massachusetts fishing industry, along with pollution and loss of coastal habitat. The Gulf Coast has similar problems and the West Coast suffers from a depleted fish population as well as development that is degrading the coast. The commission was charged with studying the Great Lakes, which are threatened by pollution and invasive species from other bodies of water that are displacing native fish.

In its recommendations, the commission emphasizes the need to reform the cumbersome federal bureaucratic procedures involving ocean management. Creation of a National Ocean Council in the White House, argues the commission, would end redundancy and confusion by centralizing all federal ocean policy in one agency. This is not a controversial recommendation and should be addressed quickly by Congress. Another worthy recommendation to increase spending for ocean science and education through an Ocean Policy Trust Fund of $3 billion a year financed by revenue from oil and gas royalties will run into opposition but it would put to good use money raised from America's notorious overconsumption of fossil fuels.

If the groundwork is laid in this fashion it will be easier to address other worthy recommendations in the report. Perhaps foremost among them are proposed adjustments to the Clean Water Act to provide incentives to states to meet high water quality standards and to issue penalties to states who fail to do so by cracking down on polluters.

Protection and preservation of America's coastal waters is one of those issues that regularly gets pushed aside because it would be costly and would appear to lack urgency. In fact, it would be costlier not to address the degradation of the oceans, given the enormous impact they have upon the environment and the food supply, for starters. The problem is also one of the most urgent the nation faces, as America's coastal waters are well on their being to becoming beyond hope of reclamation.


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