The Ocean Affects All of Us Every Day

We've been here only a few short months, but in that time we've more than just gotten our feet wet, so to speak, implementing the National Ocean Policy. Now, one year after President Obama created the first comprehensive policy for the stewardship of the oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes, is a good time to reflect on the value of this national effort, and to take stock of the progress we have made in advancing ocean stewardship.

Perhaps you are one of the millions of Americans who are spending part of their summer visiting the seashore or the Great Lakes. You may be enjoying that grilled salmon, perch, or striped bass freshly caught by a local fisher. You may be spending time with your friends and family outside in the sunshine and water. But our waters do more than just provide sustenance and recreation. They support our communities and drive our national economy in countless ways, providing jobs not just on our shores but in every state in the Nation. Wherever we live, the ocean affects all of us every day. The National Ocean Policy helps focus our attention and efforts on the most critical issues facing our oceans and coasts. It also establishes a collaborative, regionally based planning process to ensure healthy and productive ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources for generations to come. 

Here are a few milestones reached under the National Ocean Policy to date: 

  • convened the Cabinet-level National Ocean Council to take action on our most pressing ocean policy issues;
  • formed a Governance Coordinating Committee consisting of state, local, and tribal representatives that will serve as a key coordinating body on ocean policy issues;
  • hosted the Unites States’ first ever Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Workshop, bringing  together hundreds of representatives from all levels of government as well as stakeholders and members of  the public, to strengthen partnerships for a regional approach to better managing our oceans;
  • released for public comment draft outlines of strategic action plans with specific, measureable actions the Federal government can take to address key challenges facing our oceans, coasts, and Great  Lakes, including climate change, ocean acidification, coastal pollution, and changing conditions in the Arctic; and
  • hosted twelve public listening sessions across the country to ask Americans for their views on the actions they want to see to sustain and protect our oceans.

Successful ocean stewardship requires action and engagement from all levels of government, all stakeholders, and all Americans. We will continue to make sure you have opportunities to share your  thoughts and feedback on what you care most about, and where you think we should be focusing our attention. While we have much work ahead of us, we have the highest confidence that together we can ensure healthy and productive ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources, and a healthy and prosperous America.

Jay Jensen is Associate Director for Land and Water Ecosystems at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

Steve Fetter is Principal Assistant Director for Environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

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