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Healthy Oceans = Fit Economy?

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 By Monique CoppolaContact
September 23, 2009

PORTSMOUTH, N. H. - From fishing to tourism, the Atlantic Ocean is responsible for pumping billions of dollars into New England. Many experts say reducing such ocean-related problems as pollution and over-fishing is vital to our economy, and a federal task force is seeking new ideas about how to accomplish those aims.

Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, a professor at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space at the University of New Hampshire says, although we have made environmental improvements - including better sewage treatment and changes in the way we fish in New England - we still have 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's Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force is charged with developing a national policy for ocean health and a single agency to administer it - a responsibility that is now shared by 20 different agencies enforcing at least 140 laws. From ocean coastlines to the Great Lakes, Chris Mann, a senior officer at Pew Environment Group, says the complexity of the current system has actually compromised ocean health. He believes a national policy is needed.

"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, but we're treating the symptoms and not the disease."

Some who are opposed to the idea of a national ocean policy say control should remain at the local level. The task force is on a 90-day schedule of public meetings in coastal cities to get input for the plan. The next listening session is Thursday, Sept. 24, at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, R.I., from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Comments can also be submitted online at www.whitehouse.gov/oceans.

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