Ecosystem Health Is Focus|of Marine Life Protection

     WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama has created the National Ocean Council to implement a new marine stewardship policy focused on the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources.

     The new policy emphasizes planning and coordination between federal, state, tribal and local authorities and the communities and industries that rely on marine resources, to strengthen these communities and their ecosystems.
     Challenges identified in the new policy include climate change, ocean acidification, population fluctuations for fish, marine mammals and other wildlife. Another challenge mentioned is long term compliance with international agreements on ocean and fisheries management and sustainability with resource extraction, such as offshore drilling for fossil fuels.
     In the Executive Order creating the council, Obama also adopted the Final Recommendation of the Interagency Ocean Task Force, a panel he created in June 2009 to guide federal policy on marine sustainability issues.
     The panel’s recommendations for policy include adoption of ecosystem-based management as the foundation for resource management, in contrast to current agency based regulation, which the taskforce believed ignored the interrelated nature of marine ecosystems.
           A major tool for ecosystem-based management, coastal and marine spatial planning is at the center of the new national policy and is defined in Obama’s order as the “comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based, and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas.”
     According to Obama, this type of planning will “reduce conflicts among uses, reduce environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses, and preserve critical ecosystem services to meet economic, environmental, security, and social objectives,” by identifying areas most suitable for various types or classes of activities.The council will oversee implementation of the new policy in three phases, stretching over the next five years, including monitoring regional and ecosystem specific management plans developed by joint committees of federal, state, tribal and local authorities.

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