Asbury Park Press
May 3, 2006
By: Lillian Borrone and Paul Gaffney II
The health of the earth is inextricably linked to the health of ocean ecosystems. As a recent speaker at Monmouth University observed, it is past time to start a "seaweed revolution" to raise awareness and spur action to protect the oceans.
Beneath the shimmering surface, our oceans are facing a crisis. As members of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, we had the privilege of traveling across the nation and heard story after story about the threats facing coastal communities and our ocean environment. Ocean currents show signs of shifting patterns; large fish species such as shark, marlin and tuna have declined more than 90 percent; harmful algal blooms and fish kills pock-mark our coasts and the frequency and intensity of hurricanes is predicted to increase, threatening lives and property along the coast.
The commission's final report, An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, available at www.oceancommission.gov, sent out a call for action and set up a framework for change with more than 200 specific recommendations.
The message: We can and must do something now to avert the collapse of our oceans.
We have a rare opportunity to save one of our most precious natural resources - the oceans and coasts. Commission members have joined with representatives from the Pew Ocean Commission to form the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative to continue to apply pressure in Washington and around the nation on government leaders to act on ocean reform. The initiative has issued a U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card, which evaluates our national progress. The results were discouraging to say the least.
An overall mark of D-plus would put the student on probation at most schools. The report card recognizes that many governors, state agencies and universities have taken some action. In our own back yard, the state Department of Environmental Protection developed the COAST 2005 initiative, a plan to protect the integrity and economic viability of New Jersey's valuable coastal resources. New York Gov. George Pataki, a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, convened an ocean summit and has recommended increased funding for coastal, oceans and Great Lakes initiatives. At Monmouth University, we have started the Urban Coast Institute. Its mission is to bring the best science and information available to support stewardship of coastal ecosystems and communities.
This is a good start. However, much more can be done in this region and across the country.
Some key actions that should be taken at the state and federal levels include:
A doubling of ocean research funding and increased support for ocean research, science and education at the state and community level. How can one make good ocean policy without understanding the processes of the coastal ecosystem?
Place more focus on ocean issues in our school science curricula. We need an ocean-literate public that understands how the earth and ocean are connected.
Develop guidelines and standards for managing offshore waters to address
emerging demands for offshore energy development and wind farms, aquaculture and conservation of fisheries and other living marine resources.
Congress should reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Coastal Zone Management acts and approve the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Provide a sustainable source of funding for key ocean programs by implementing a key Commission on Ocean Policy recommendation to establish an Ocean Policy Trust Fund.
We have an historic opportunity to save our oceans if we act now. There is strong leadership in our region that can be a model to unify our nation around a common goal - protecting and restoring ocean and coastal ecosystems to provide the goods, recreation and services that people can cherish for generations to come.
Lillian Borrone is the former assistant executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Paul Gaffney II is president of Monmouth University, West Long Branch.Asbury Park Press: