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Billions of Dollars and Millions of Jobs at Stake in Obama Ocean Policy

September 21, 2009

NEW YORK - More than 2 million jobs in the United States depend on the planet's oceans. In New York alone, fishing, beaches and other ocean-related industries add tens of billions of dollars to the state economy. But all that depends on healthy oceans. Experts say declining fish populations, increasing pollution and "dead zones" are all signs the oceans are in decline.

Allison Chase, an ocean policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the threats to the health of the oceans also threaten economic health.

"Oceans contribute more than $24 billion to New York's economy, and when the ocean suffers, New York suffers. For example, beach closings on Long Island cost the state $60 million in 2007."

Last week, the Obama administration offered a plan to restore the oceans to better health by proposing the first-ever national policy for regulating the use of the nation's offshore waters and coastlines.

Chris Mann, senior officer with the Pew Environment Group, points to the need for a coordinated oceans policy because more than 20 different federal agencies have jurisdiction over a portion of ocean management. He says the Obama approach would encourage competing agencies to work together to identify and fix the worst problems.

"If their boss, the President, says 'I want you to make this a priority, and by God you kids play nice together,' that's a sea change."

President Obama's Ocean Policy Task Force is holding its only East Coast listening session this week. Fishermen, community leaders, scientists and the general public will be able to comment on the administration's ocean plan on Sept. 24 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY