U.S. Gets Poor Grade from Ocean Experts

The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a collaboration between the federally appointed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the privately funded Pew Oceans Commission, last week issued its U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card for 2006. The United States received an overall grade of C- on efforts to protect the nation’s ocean waters and marine ecosystems. The minor improvement over last year’s D+ grade is thanks to passage of "long overdue" federal fisheries reform, the establishment of the 140,000-square-mile Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, and a Bush administration proposal to increase the federal budget for coastal and marine conservation programs.

The U.S. received a grade of C- this year for its ocean stewardship, a minor improvement over last year"s D+.© GETTY IMAGES

But commissioners reported that in other areas the federal government is lacking in its stewardship of U.S. oceans, and said that increased funding above what the Bush administration is requesting is needed to bolster education and research to help protect "declining" marine ecosystems. The commission would also like to see the U.S. take more of a leadership role internationally for cleaning up the world’s oceans and focus more attention on responding to the threat of global warming.

"Our expert commissions have told Congress and the administration what they can do to pick up the pace and immediately begin to reverse ocean decline," said Leon Panetta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who now heads the Pew Oceans Commission and co-chairs the Joint Initiative. "To bring this grade up in 2007, the bottom line is that more needs to be done if we are to protect our ocean resources."

In contrast, commissioners praised several states as "important champions" for oceans in 2006, citing efforts in New York and Washington and regional pacts for the West Coast and Gulf of Mexico that strengthen environmental protections for coastal areas. The report card gave the country an A- grade in the "regional and state ocean governance reform" category.

Source: Joint Ocean Commission Initiative