Obama releases first-ever US national ocean policy

The President released the National Ocean Policy and the Executive Order on Stewardship of our Ocean, Coasts and Great Lakes on Monday, July 19.  The Executive Order establishes, for the first time, a comprehensive, integrated national policy for the stewardship of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.  The new policy will call for comprehensive planning for preservation and sustained, high-level, and coordinated attention to ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes issues.  It will also create the Secretarial-level National Ocean Council.

The announcement follows a June 2009 executive order, when President Obama created the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and charged it with developing recommendations to enhance national stewardship of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes and promote the long term conservation and use of these resources.  For more information on the Task Force and today’s announcement, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/Press_Releases/July_19_2010

“The new ocean policy is a tremendous leap forward. By acknowledging that healthy ecosystems are critical to create the abundant seafood, clean water, and swimmable beaches we all value, the new policy will enable more proactive and holistic ocean stewardship from the local to the national level,” says Heather Leslie, an environmental scientist and assistant professor at Brown University. “We can learn from existing ‘laboratories’ of ecosystem-based management, such as Chesapeake Bay and California’s Morro Bay, about how to more effectively blend social, economic, and scientific concerns. Learning from forward-looking efforts like these will help ensure that we are able to meet the varied objectives people have for our coasts and oceans.”

Prof. Leslie, Peggy and Henry D. Sharpe Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology at Brown, was called to Washington, DC last summer to brief policymakers as they developed an initial draft of the national policy. Her recent work on innovative marine stewardship efforts, often referred to as ecosystem-based approaches, in New England and elsewhere, was featured in a recent book, Ecosystem-Based Management for the Oceans, which she co-edited with Dr. Karen McLeod of Oregon State University and The Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea (COMPASS).

“Whether you are a fisherman out of Pt. Judith or a tourist enjoying all that Cape Cod has to offer, this is important news. We New Englanders take pride in our strong maritime culture and have a long tradition of seeking to sustain both marine ecosystems and coastal communities. This new policy will enable regional ocean stewardship efforts in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and elsewhere in New England to be expanded in the coming months, and will strengthen the partnerships between scientists, fishermen, managers, and other concerned citizens engaged in ocean stewardship.”

Prof. Leslie, who was raised in Plymouth, Massachusetts, now lives with her family in Providence, Rhode Island. She is available to talk with journalists by cell phone (401 644 2262) and email (Heather_Leslie@brown.edu). Her biography is available at http://umaine.edu/leslie-lab/links/heather-leslie/ and information on her work on ecosystem-based management is at http://umaine.edu/leslie-lab/education/ecosystem-based-management/