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Great Lakes Article:

Environmentalists Urge Spitzer to Make Oceans and Coasts a Priority
The Northender
Published December 6th, 2006

A coalition of environmental groups has come together to issue an outline that it believes Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer can follow to best improve the health of New York State’s oceans and coastal areas (see letter). 

When he was campaigning for office, Mr. Spitzer said on his website, “Our state must make smart land use decisions to protect waterways, including the New York City watershed in the Catskills. We need a clean oceans policy that will protect our magnificent coastal resources. We must reverse the loss of wetlands. And we must clean up polluted bodies of water across the state.”

It seems he’s being told to make good on those words.

The first steps, according to the coalition, would be creating an “Ocean Health Index” to issue annual reports of the State’s ocean health; convening Mid-Atlantic Governors to address ocean-related issues; and supporting, financially and otherwise, the work of the recently-established New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council.

“New Yorkers depend on their ocean and coasts for food, recreation and valuable jobs, but these resources are in a state of silent crisis caused by pollution, destruction of productive marine habitat and increased strain on fish stocks,” said Sarah Chasis, Ocean Initiative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Governor-Elect Spitzer should strengthen coastal and ocean protection efforts and establish an annual ocean check-up to highlight what’s needed to sustain our coastal and ocean resources and the goods and services they provide. A state Ocean Health Index would serve as a diagnostic tool to help guide conservation and restoration efforts.”

“Governor-Elect Spitzer has a great opportunity to manage New York's ocean resources to help protect our communities, provide fresh supplies of seafood and secure economic and recreational opportunities for everyone,” said Dr. Jake Kritzer, a marine ecologist and fisheries biologist who works in the New York office of the Environmental Defense Fund. “By convening a Mid-Atlantic Oceans Summit of his fellow-governors, Spitzer will keep New York in the lead in ocean conservation, regionally and nationally.”

The coalition points to a recent study by the journal Science and the findings of two recent national ocean commissions as illustrating that ocean and coastal resources are declining in New York and around the world. In New York, the coalition claims, more than 40 percent of estuary and bay waters are impaired or threatened and more than 35 percent of the most important commercial and recreational saltwater fish and shellfish are depleted or being harvested at unsustainable rates.

A joint statement reads from the coalition reads, “Last June, state lawmakers unanimously passed the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act to help restore and protect the state’s marine resources. The landmark legislation established an interagency Council to help coordinate marine resource management and adopted an ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach for ocean and coastal resources. EBM – which was called for by both national ocean commissions and the Science study – is an important alternative to managing only on a species-by-species, problem-by-problem basis; it instead considers the interplay between different species, including humans, their habitats, and the combined impact of activities on the system.”

“Ecosystem-based management allows us to create innovative and comprehensive solutions by looking at the whole system,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Governor-Elect Spitzer needs to support and expand the Council’s efforts to move us toward EBM to increase our efforts to restore our estuaries and Great Lakes and begin the process of addressing the needs of restoring our oceans.”

Another of the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council’s responsibilities will be developing an atlas of ocean and coastal resources. 

“The atlas will help ensure that accurate information about the state of the ocean is available at all levels of government,” said John Stouffer, Legislative Director of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter. “We are asking Governor-Elect Spitzer for a corresponding Ocean Health Index to help distill this data into a snapshot of ocean health so we can move forward on restoration plans.” 

The coalition is requesting, as part of an expanded $500 million Environmental Protection Fund, $15 million for ocean and bays restoration and protection and $10 million for the Great Lakes. 

“In the past year, New York has taken some important steps forward to ensure that our ocean and Great Lakes ecosystems will be cleaner and healthier for future generations to enjoy,” said David J. Miller, Executive Director of Audubon New York. “We need to continue to increase state funding for these efforts so that New York can match new federal funding sources, like the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act and Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, and continue to restore these important freshwater and marine habitats and the hundreds of bird species that rely on them.” 

“A new era has begun in New York State for ocean and coastal resources protection,” said Friends of the Bay Executive Director Kyle Rabin. “We are at a critical juncture and we look to the incoming Governor to continue the great progress that has been made to protect these critical environmental and economic resources.” 

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