The complexity of ocean management

In last Thursday’s blog, I began examining the new Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force created by the White House and charged with developing a new national policy that “ensures protection, maintenance, and restoration of oceans, our coasts and the Great Lakes.”

While developing policies that sustain our oceans and Great Lakes is commendable, it’s also producing angst, as well it should. That’s because the task force has already produced an Interim Framework calling for a new, all-powerful National Ocean Council that would have authority over virtually every aspect of U.S. ocean policy. Moreover, the task force also touts so-called Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning. No matter how I try to define CMSP, it keeps coming out “zoning!”

Since President Obama established this task force last June, the National Marine manufacturers Association has been out front in watching, analyzing and submitting written comments on behalf of the boating industry. Unfortunately, the initial “Level: Concern” has been elevated to “Level: Alarm” since the task force’s recommended Interim Framework for “improved stewardship, and effective CMSP” was issued in December. Here are examples of what NMMA’s Washington team has determined:

• The idea of a super-empowered NOC will clearly create an additional layer of bureaucracy and a new ocean governance superstructure that could diminish the role, authority and effectiveness of state programs. Although the task force asserts any CMSP will be primarily developed at the regional levels, all final decisions would remain with NOC. Further, NOC would: certify all CSMPs; approve all technologies and mechanisms to monitor ocean uses; identify and implement “compliance mechanisms” to ensure “adherence;" be the exclusive and final arbiter of any disputes; and since the interim framework fails to call for any process through which the public could review or comment on any NOC actions, affected stakeholders, like recreational boating and fishing interests, would lack the ability to see or comment on policies that will govern development of regional CSMP plans.

• At a minimum, the task force framework calls for an obvious top-down federal approach to all aspects of ocean and Great Lakes management and activity. There are already calls from some groups for the President to issue an executive order when the task force submits its final report. But, unquestionably, the complexity of ocean management warrants discussion in a transparent public policy process. Any executive order would effectively bypass Congressional review, limit the opportunity for stakeholders to influence the policies, and would likely overstep the bounds of state authority.

• The interim framework calls for CMSPs to occur within a new layer of regional planning bodies apparently delineated by presidential proclamation. But it raises more questions than answers. For example, how these regional bodies would interface with existing agencies authorized by statutes like the Magnuson Stevens Act is not addressed. Or, why ocean policy and CMSPs would be applied to the Great Lakes? After all, the submerged lands in the Great lakes are under the jurisdiction of all adjacent states and Ontario, Canada. There are not now any waters there under exclusive federal jurisdiction.

For these and more reasons, there is real foreboding for our industry in the direction and ongoing work of this task force. And, I have not, yet, briefed you on the recommendations NMMA has been making to the task force. So, stick with me -- that will be the final part three on this subject in this Thursday’s Dealer Outlook.


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