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Ocean Task Force Needs Input from Oregon, Too

September 21, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon is working to create a system of marine reserves along the coast, and now, a national Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force is meeting around the country, charged with creating the first national policy for managing oceans. The group is hearing people's ideas on protecting and restoring oceans, coastlines, and the Great Lakes.

From the effects of climate change to fish conservation, to water quality along the coasts, many ocean areas are in trouble. Elliott Norse, who heads a Northwest group, the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, thinks a national policy will bring a fresh approach to the problems.

"This would be a way of managing ocean space so that federal agencies are not constantly tripping over each other; so that environmentalists and users aren't in conflict all the time, because there's really enough ocean for all of us, if we do this intelligently."

Here in the West, the task force only met in Anchorage and San Francisco, and is on the East coast this week. But Norse says Oregonians shouldn't take it personally; comments can still be made online.

He says the U.S. has the largest ocean area of any nation in the world, and there are plenty of reasons to do a better job of protecting it.

"Half the oxygen you breathe is generated by the ocean. They provide - oh, a sixth of the world's animal protein. They protect our shorelines, and more people live in the coastal zone than anywhere else."

According to the Pew Environment Group, there are 20 U.S. agencies and about 140 laws related to ocean management. Chris Mann, a senior officer at Pew, says a new national policy should help streamline that management.

"If you're standing on a piece of land, you know who the steward is; you know who to go to for management. Nobody owns and controls the ocean, so what we must have is a coordinating mechanism among the many agencies whose activities affect the ocean."

Mann says the oceans also support more than two million jobs in the U.S.

A link to the comment page for the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force is at
www.mcbi.org

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR