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NMMA gets involved in coastal policy development

This is the third and final blog, for now, concerning the new Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force created by the White House (see Dealer Outlook from Feb. 18 and Feb. 23). So far, the task force has produced an Interim Framework recommending, among other things, creation of a National Ocean Council with sole authority over virtually all aspects of U.S. ocean policy, as well as calling for Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, a new name for the old Ecosystem-Based Management design.

Call it what you will – it’s still zoning because it means deciding which uses should be allowed in which areas and who uses it! “We need to do a better job effectively zoning coastal waters,” said John Torgan, a Save The Bay member, while applauding the task force report. But, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and 10 other national organizations, has issued strong objections to any federal effort to allocate space and restrict public access (zoning). Rather, the groups recommend any CMSP be limited to enhancing much-needed interagency cooperation in planning where a use conflict might be unavoidable.

Regrettably, the task force has moved too fast. It resulted in absolutely no consideration of recreational boating and fishing in its first interim report. That has changed since NMMA, American Sportfishing Association, B.A.S.S. and seven others cried foul! Still, we have justifiable concern that task force members, especially those with ties to preservationist groups, favor management by closing waters to recreational boating and/or fishing for philosophical rather than any sound scientific reasons.

NMMA and others have correctly raised vital questions about the creation of a supreme NOC and its impact on the role of the states which now have the primary jurisdiction for resident fish and wildlife. Clearly the states appear diminished by the task force’s call for “nine regional planning bodies” to coordinate America’s oceans and Great Lakes. Moreover, under a proposed NOC approval system, the regional planning bodies could make decisions -- as long as they are the right ones!

Groups like the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others are already pushing President Obama to adopt the task force’s final recommendations by executive order. NMMA has strongly objected, citing the complexity of ocean management clearly demands sustained discussion in an open public process. Further, the interim framework is almost completely void of specification with vague statutory authority. An executive order would bypass key Congressional review, likely overstep the bounds of state authority and limit stakeholder’s ability to influence ocean policy.

Recreational interests and access must be the core element in developing any CMSP, NMMA has told to the task force. CMSP must not be a means to lock-up, restrict or otherwise diminish public access and designate vast areas as marine set-asides. Too often recreational interests are afterthoughts of marine policy, whereas under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the recreational community has equal legal standing as commercial interests to fishery resources and access.

NMMA has strongly urged the administration to follow the legal requirements of Magnuson-Stevens. So far, NMMA has done an outstanding job of getting boating and fishing into play in the current task force process. But make no mistake about it -- while it’s very desirable to seek better coordination of all agencies for planning, streamlining processes and dealing with conflicts -- what’s now really being proposed is a “fundamental change” over to an unprecedented ocean governance superstructure. I sense a long fight ahead for boating. Film at 11!

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