President Bush responded to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy's (USCOP) report today by signing an executive order to establish a cabinet-level Committee on Ocean Policy. Environment Texas, the new home of TexPIRG's environmental work, commends the White House for recognizing that our oceans are in crisis.
The creation of a cabinet-level body to coordinate the management of our oceans sounds promising, and we remain cautiously optimistic about the initiative the administration seems to be taking on this issue. But the devil is in the details, and we urge the administration to ensure that the guiding principles of the Committee on Ocean Policy are to protect, restore and conserve our oceans and coasts.
While the creation of this Committee is a commendable first step, it comes as the Bush administration is poised to weaken through agency action the standard that serves as the national guideline for what is considered to be "overfishing." This effort ignores the USCOP's warning that overfishing is a major contributing factor to the decline of ocean health. In the spirit of the president's goal of improving the management of our federal fisheries, his administration should reconsider their proposed revisions and instead keep this standard as currently written.
President Bush has an historic opportunity to be a true champion for the oceans, a welcome contrast to his historically anti-environmental record. America's coasts and oceans, and all those that depend on them, are all counting on him to create a legacy of true ocean protection.