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Obama Ocean Task Force Focuses on the Pacific

September 17, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - An Obama Administration task force is in California this week to take a closer look at the Pacific Ocean. Officials are crafting the first national policy for managing oceans adjacent to the United States. They are in the Bay Area to learn about challenges facing the West Coast, which include overfishing, habitat destruction and global warming.

Meg Caldwell, executive director of the Center for Ocean Solutions, says the planning goal is to protect marine resources for generations to come. These resources would greatly benefit from a national policy, Caldwell says, because this large marine ecosystem is shared - by California and other states.

"What one state does in the way of dealing with fisheries, oil exploration or aquaculture can actually pretty dramatically affect another state."

The United States, which has the largest ocean area of any country in the world, currently has 140 laws and 20 agencies to manage this resource.

Chris Mann, senior officer with the Pew Environment Group, says that's why a national policy is vital.

"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 or controls the ocean. So what we must have is a coordinating mechanism among the many agencies whose activities affect the ocean."

The task force meeting will cover statewide coastal issues including estuary protection, salmon conservation and ocean acidification. Obama's plan would bring together the many government agencies whose actions affect the oceans and focus on making the overall health of marine ecosystems a priority.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA