Trump Administration Rescinds National Ocean Policy

Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

On June 19, the Trump administration announced the repeal of the National Ocean Policy, established by President Obama in 2010 to provide guiding principles for management decisions related to stewardship and health of the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes so “as to promote the well-being, prosperity and security of present and future generations.”

In its place, the administration adopted a new “Executive Order Regarding the Ocean Policy to Advance the Economic, Security, and Environmental Interests of the United States.”

The National Ocean Policy Coalition, comprised of energy, industry and other interests, were pleased to see Obama’s policy undone. Managing Director Jack Belcher said the retraction “removes a significant cloud of uncertainty that has been hovering over a wide range of commercial and recreational interests that represent a broad cross-section of the American economy, threatening domestic jobs, economic activity, and recreational opportunities through new and unauthorized bureaucracies, mandates to federal agencies, and actions that could needlessly prohibit, limit, or delay access to public lands.

“This announcement will help ensure a future in which the American people can continue to receive the diverse array of economic, recreational, and societal benefits that the oceans provide for generations to come.”

Environmental groups, however, were dismayed by the announcement.

The repeal, said the coastal conservation nonprofit Littoral Society, “is a retreat from common sense policies designed to protect coastal environments, communities and economies. The National Ocean Policy was the result of decades of bipartisan research, recommendations, and public outreach. Its implementation centered on ensuring our federal government is more transparent, inclusive, efficient, and responsive to the priorities of the nation’s coastal states and stakeholders, while looking for ways to ensure healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems for future generations.”

As Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, summarized, “The replacement order guts the NOP as a stewardship policy and instead, creates a policy centered on utilizing the ocean, not prioritizing its protection for sustainable use.”

According to Surfrider Foundation Environmental Director Pete Stauffer, “Repealing the policy is a blow to sensible and effective management, and is yet another attack on our ocean and coastlines.”

The National Ocean Policy Obama created in 2010 was founded on the work of two bipartisan ocean policy commissions, “both of which called for a comprehensive ocean policy to guide sustainable management” of oceans, coasts and other waters, the Littoral Society explained. “In addition to promoting conservation, this framework fostered stronger economies for our coastal communities by prioritizing the work of the federal government around diverse priority objectives, ranging from improving coordination and integration across the federal government to enhancing water quality in the ocean, along our coasts, and in the Great Lakes.”

The prior policy, the Surfrider Foundation pointed out, addressed crucial issues such as water quality, marine debris, coastal resilience and renewable energy via coordination across all levels of government. In addition, the policy improved opportunities for public and stakeholder participation in decisions that affect the oceans and the coasts.

“This move by the administration could damage the many industries and jobs that depend on a healthy ocean,” the foundation explained. “The ocean economy is an economic powerhouse, supporting more than three million jobs and contributing $320 billion to gross domestic product per year. The majority of these jobs rely on clean coastal waters and healthy and abundant fish and wildlife.”

The new executive order is online at whitehouse.gov.  —J.K.-H.

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