Today, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) delivered its final report and recommendations for a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy to President Bush. Mandated by Congress in the Oceans Act of 2000, and appointed by the President himself, the Commission's take home message is undeniable - our oceans are in deep trouble. The Bush administration now has 90 days to respond and make policy recommendations to Congress.
While those who recognize the fragility of marine ecosystems applaud most of the USCOP's recommendations, it is unclear that the Bush administration will make oceans the priority it should. Environment Texas, the new home of TexPIRG's environmental work, urges the Administration to heed the alarm bells sounded by the Commission. The Bush administration should act on this historic opportunity to shift course and take action to protect and conserve our precious and valuable oceans.
In the meantime, Congress, in recognition of the crisis facing our oceans, has already begun to take steps to protect our blue planet. Legislation authored by Representative Rahall (WV) embodies many of the USCOP recommendations. The Fisheries Management Reform Act (H.R. 4706) would address the problem of short-term interests being served at the expense of the health and rebuilding of fisheries and ocean ecosystems. The bill, if enacted, would eliminate long-standing financial conflicts of interest, unbalanced representation, and poor conservation decisions in the fisheries management system.
The poor state of our oceans, however, demands action on both fronts - legislative and administrative. President Bush should do his part to make the restoration and protection of our oceans a top national priority and to ensure that the USCOP report will not be just another well-intentioned document fated to collect dust on bureaucratic shelves in Washington.