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Healthy Oceans = Fit Economy?

September 22, 2009

BOSTON - For hundreds of years the Atlantic Ocean has played an integral role in New England's economy. However, many experts agree that if a national policy to protect the ocean's health is not put in place, the economic future of New England and the country could be severely compromised. A new national task force is looking to such things as reducing ocean pollution and stopping over-fishing as vital to the economy.

Professor Andrew Rosenberg with the Natural Resources Department at the University of New Hampshire says that although many environmental improvements have been made in New England, such as better sewage treatment and changes in the way commercial fishing is done, there's still a long way to go.

"We've seen better management for coastal resources, but we haven't connected the pieces together very well, so we still have areas that are too polluted, and we still have stocks that are over-fished."

The Obama administration has created a 90-day task force designed to analyze the issues involved in keeping the oceans healthy. Part of the administration's plan is to propose a national policy, which would establish one agency to oversee the U.S. parts of the oceans and the Great Lakes.

Currently, the country's waters are governed by more than 140 laws and 20 different agencies, which compromises the health of the oceans, according to Chris Mann, senior officer with the Pew Environment Group. He says a national policy to address ocean health is necessary.

"Nobody is responsible for the health of the whole ocean, even though that's what determines the health. You know, it's like the patient is sick, and we're treating the symptoms and not the disease."

Many opposed to a national ocean policy say control should remain at the local level. The public will have the chance to weigh in on the issue on Thursday (September 24) at a listening session to be held by members of the Obama administration's task force at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA