'); } -->
By ELLIOTT A. NORSE |
The 2010 Winter Olympics gave "The Great One," hockey player Wayne Gretzky, the honor of lighting the Olympic Cauldron. Seeing him reminded me of his famous quote: "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been."
As in hockey, success in ocean policy comes from foresight, communication and willingness to take a hit for the good of the team. President Obama should heed Gretzky's advice as he leads our nation toward an ocean policy to recover the health of America's oceans and generate needed American jobs. Our oceans and coasts are still governed by a hodgepodge of 140 different federal laws and 20 different federal agencies, each with different goals and often conflicting mandates.
Recently the Obama administration proposed our country's first National Ocean Policy to improve coordination among federal, state, tribal and local authorities for managing activities in our coastal, Great Lakes and ocean waters.
This is crucial because the way America has governed our oceans reflects the outmoded perspective that scientists, legislators and the public held from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Back then, almost everyone believed that oceans were invulnerable, that the biggest challenges were how best to use their "assimilative capacity" for pollutants, while encouraging "full utilization" of their seemingly limitless resources.
Federal policies rested on the belief that humankind could not hurt the oceans. This led each agency to champion special interests, rather than protecting the public's interest in healthy oceans. Individual agencies aided shipping or oil drilling or fisheries or pollution prevention. But nobody was in charge of protecting our oceans. Maybe that made sense when people thought they didn't need protecting.
Now we know better. In my 1993 book "Global Marine Biological Diversity," 106 scientists and policy experts detailed how our oceans are in trouble. Five years later, 1,605 scientists released "Troubled Waters: A Call for Action" on Capitol Hill, proclaiming publicly that our oceans are imperiled. Since then, almost everywhere my fellow scientists have looked, the bottom line is the same: Our oceans' health is declining.