Marine conservation activists were dismayed to learn last week that the Bush administration is unlikely to institute recommended policy changes regarding the way it handles ocean pollution, coastal development, fisheries management and other marine environmental issues. The White House is mandated to officially “respond” by December 20 to recommendations set forth by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy last year.
According to Admiral James Watkins, the former Secretary of Energy who chaired the federally appointed commission, the White House response will probably consist of “a menu of all the wonderful things they are doing right now” in an effort to solve America’s marine woes by applying existing policies with the current governmental oversight structure. Watkins’ commission recommended, among other things, creating a Presidential assistant dedicated exclusively to oceans as well as a National Ocean Council comprised of Cabinet-level officials and federal agency heads.
Before news of the probable White House rejection of the recommendations was known, many activists had already been complaining that even implementation of the commission’s advice would not be enough to stem the tide of marine decline. Meanwhile, the advocacy-oriented Pew Oceans Commission had released an independent report calling for even more far-reaching changes to the way the federal government deals with ocean problems.