Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques, was one of the featured speakers at the Blue Vision Summit in Washington, D.C.© www.loe.org
If this wasn’t enough bad news, long-time offshore-oil-drilling opponent Richard Charter was nice enough to forward me a story about how 20 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, key Prince William Sound indicator species are declining, including orcas, whose unique endemic whale language may soon go extinct along with the last local orca families.
The best available science is predicting the worst imaginable scenarios and what’s most frustrating is that although we know what the solutions are, we just haven’t mobilized the political and popular will to implement them.
A Course Correction for the Politics of the Ocean
There were innovative courses of action discussed at the just-ended Blue Vision Summit March 7-10 in Washington, D.C., which featured everyone from environmental activist and writer Bill McKibben to Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques, as well as other top national and international ocean experts. One topic of discussion was zoning or “marine spatial management,” which would incorporate a system of improved watersheds and estuaries, offshore shipping lanes and greener ports, wildlife migration corridors, clean energy, national defense and fishing areas, recreational and marine wilderness parks, and other benefits.
Also needed is Congressional passage of a U.S. Ocean Act at the level of the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act of the last century, in order to ensure that this kind of tidal change is enshrined as the law of the land.
But first there’s the Law of the Sea to deal with. After 30 years of delay, part of the Summit Capitol Hill Day was used to encourage our Senators to finally ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty this year and reengage with the rest of the world in setting the basic rules for navigation, exploration, and conservation on the world ocean. The Treaty, endorsed by the full range of ocean interests from oil companies to Greenpeace, isn’t even low-lying fruit; it’s on the ground rotting, just waiting to be picked up. A more daunting political challenge for the Obama administration and Congress will be comprehensive management of the 3.4 million square nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone that stretches 200 miles out from U.S. shores.
Still, we’re hopeful that new approaches such as a federal Ocean Act or a White House ocean initiative, driven and monitored by a bottom-up seaweed (marine grassroots) constituency, might yet inspire broad public support to help restore our public waters and shores from sea to shining sea.
CONTACT: Blue Frontier Campaign
DAVID HELVARG is an author and environmental activist and the president of the Blue Frontier Campaign. This commentary first appeared on the Blue Frontier website.