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.