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Obama Ocean Plan Must Put Marine Life First

Ocean Advocates Call for Action Over Planning in San Francisco
July 1st, 2011

At the National Ocean Council "listening session" in San Francisco on June 30, we called on President Obama's ocean advisors to make mapping of sea turtle swimways a priority when "zoning" the oceans. Program Director Teri Shore highlighted the need for protected marine corridors in the new strategic plans that are being developed by the National Ocean Council. Joined by STRP activists and ocean conservationists from allied organizations, Shore put sea turtles on the agenda of the government officials who organized break-out sessions to hear our comments on marine spatial planning (zoning of the oceans), climate change, regional eco-system protection, eco-system based management and other priority topics. Listen to Teri's radio interview on KPFA's 6 o'clock news of June 30 here (Or download below to scroll to ocean story which is about three-quarters through the program.)

While STRP supports the need for an National Ocean Policy and applaud's President Obama's leadership, we remain concerned that conservation may take a back seat to expansion of harmful fisheries and oil and gas into ocean waters that are important to sea turtles, whales, salmon, shark and other marine life.

Here are some of the key points we made. See below to download our detailed comments about the proposed national ocean plan. Click here to read about previous actions on the National Ocean Policy.

We strongly urge the President and the National Ocean Council (NOC) to make the long-term survival and recovery of sea turtles, salmon, marine mammals, fish and all sea life the backbone of the national ocean policy.

Toxicity: We also urge the President and the NOC to address human health in the national ocean policy specifically as it relates to consumption, testing and safety of seafood from our oceans and waterways, particularly mercury and toxicity in the fish we eat.

Precautionary approach: Neither the NOP goals and objectives or Strategic Action Plans (SAPs) mention the precautionary principle.  The the precautionary principle  must underpin the entire NOP. This will help make decisions when a conflict between human use and environmental protections arises in our oceans and coastal waters.

Ecosystem-Based Management: Establishment and protection of critical habitat for endangered sea turtles, marine mammals and other marine species, including endangered fish such as bluefin tuna, must be an essential element and priority objective of ecosystem-based management.

Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP): The mapping and protection of critical habitat, migratory pathways, established marine protected areas and sanctuaries, breeding and spawning grounds, foraging areas and other key life cycles of marine species from sea turtles to whales to fish and coral must be prioritized in CMSP. Interactions and impacts from human activities that exist or are anticipated must be overlaid on the above to identify and protect key areas where human activities are limited or not allowed at all.

Inform Decisions and Improve Understanding: Private and corporate investment in scientific research must not be a primary source of research or funding as corporate interests tend to compromise scientific findings. Any research or existing data compiled by corporations or private entities in U.S. waters must be released publicly. Political appointees must not be allowed to be decisionmakers in the release of scientific data or findings.

Resiliency, Climate Change and Ocean Acidification: Carbon offsets and private investment in conservation and restoration should not be part of the National Ocean Plan. We oppose creating carbon-based incentives for coastal habitat conservation. For the  National Ocean Council to address global greenhouse gases and climate change, it must do so by supporting strict regulation, reduction and prevention of major sources of greenhouse gases, not by giving away our natural resources and “lungs of the earth” so that companies can pollute more and make more profits.

Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration: We urge immediate drafting of strategic action regional plans for the West Coast, Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay region and other regions that have not yet been addressed. Stakeholders such as our organization must be invited to participate in the drafting of the regional plans. Right now it is not clear how the National Ocean Council is developing these plans or how non-government entities can participate.

The key focus of the existing plans as outlined does not seem comprehensive. For example, in the Gulf of Mexico, the primary focus appears to be “ongoing regional sediment management planning efforts.” While sediment management is an important issue, it seems far too limited to seriously address the myriad of regional oceans and related problems the region is now facing. Certainly the National Ocean Council cannot ignore the impacts of oil and gas in the region or commercial fishing as key focus areas.

Regional protection plans need to include habitat for all marine animals, not just critical habitat where designated, but all important habitat for healthy populations of marine animals and fish. 

Water Quality and Land use: When it comes to the protection of habitat and survival of endangered sea turtles in U.S. waters, water quality is becoming an increasing problem.

Water quality is under constant threat from pollution and manipulation due to industrial use, municipal discharges, urban non-point source runoff, and climate change.  Ocean water quality able to support normal growth, development, viability, and health of endangered sea turtles and their prey must be considered in the shaping of the National Ocean Policy.

The Pacifica Evening News, Weekdays - June 30, 2011 at 6:00pm

Click to listen (or download)

Sea Turtle Restoration Project • PO Box 370 • Forest Knolls, CA 94933, USA
Phone: +1 415 663 8590 • Fax: +1 415 663 9534 • info@seaturtles.org
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