Report Card Gives U.S. Slightly Improved Grade on Protecting Oceans

Innovative state government initiatives, long-overdue federal fisheries reform and the designation of 140,000 square miles of protected waters were among the highlights of U.S. efforts to reform ocean policy in 2006. However, the nation has failed to commit funding and make desperately needed policy reforms for the long-term preservation of the oceans, according to the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative's U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card.

"In the race to preserve our oceans, the states are outdistancing the federal government," said the Honorable Leon Panetta, co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. "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. 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."

The report card, released on Jan. 30, is an assessment of the nation's collective progress in 2006 toward fulfilling the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission, which have joined together as the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. The United States received an average grade of C- for the six subjects measured in the report card, up slightly from the D+ assigned for 2005.

State leadership and fisheries management earned grades of A- and B+, respectively. States emerged as important champions for oceans in 2006, establishing new statewide initiatives in New York and Washington as well as regional agreements to coordinate ocean management efforts on the West Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Congress and the Bush administration also took important steps forward with the passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, which sets a firm deadline for ending overfishing, the designation of 140,000 square miles of protected islands, atolls, and oceans under the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, and the development of a new national ocean research strategy. However, similar progress was lacking in other areas measured by the report card.

"Addressing climate change is a high priority for most Americans, and although the climate and oceans are inexorably intertwined, the critical role oceans play in climate change is seldom addressed," said Admiral James D. Watkins, co-chair of the Joint Initiative. "Our failure to increase ocean science investments to learn more about this link and how to manage its impacts means we are trying to fight climate change with one arm tied behind our back."

The report card can be accessed at http://www.jointoceancommission.org.

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