Obama issues national ocean policy

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Recreational boating is highlighted in a final report on ocean management, which was used as the basis for the Obama administration's establishment of a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order Monday establishing the policy, which adopts the final recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and directs federal agencies to take appropriate steps to implement them.

"The document that was released yesterday ... is much improved from the initial interim reports that they released for public comment," Mat Dunn, legislative director for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, told Soundings Trade Only this morning. "In those documents, recreation and recreational fishing and boating were not emphasized in any significant way and, as we see in this final report, that has changed."

Dunn continued: "The importance of recreational boating, the recreational marine manufacturing industry, recreational fishing, all of the activities surrounding tourism are hightlighted in this final report, which will form the basis for significant new approaches toward oceans management for the next, probably, five years and going forward."

The executive order strengthens ocean governance and coordination, establishes guiding principles for ocean management and adopts a flexible framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning, according to a statement from the White House.

The final recommendations create a National Ocean Council to strengthen ocean governance and coordination. The recommendations prioritize actions for the council to pursue and call for a flexible framework for coastal and marine spatial planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes.

Dunn said the council will consist of senior officials from federal agencies, but they are required to consult with stakeholders throughout the long-term planning process, which was a requirement the NMMA requested.

"President Obama recognized that our uses of the ocean are expanding at a rate that challenges our ability to manage significant and often competing demands," said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in a statement. "With a growing number of recreational, scientific, energy and security activities, we need a national policy that sets the United States on a new path for the conservation and sustainable use of these critical natural resources."

On June 12, 2009, Obama sent a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and federal agencies establishing an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and charged it with developing recommendations to enhance national stewardship of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes, and promote the long term conservation and use of these resources.

At the president's direction, the task force released an interim report in September 2009 and an interim framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning in December 2009.

The task force received and reviewed close to 5,000 written comments from Congress, stakeholders and the public before finalizing its recommendations.

What this means in the long-term is unknown, "but at least in the base document, recreation is a priority," Dunn said. "Recreational boating is throughout the report as a positive reference."

Click here for a copy of the executive order.

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