The scientists and staff of the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium stand by the 2010 National Ocean Policy in support of healthy and vibrant oceans. We believe the best way to create sustainable oceans—both environmentally and economically—is through strategic and transparent planning, science-based decision-making, and collaborative partnerships across all sectors. We consider the current Administration’s decision to revoke the 2010 executive order that created the National Ocean Policy and the National Ocean Council shortsighted.

Our oceans are undeniably under major, multiple stresses caused by many diverse human activities and their impacts. Among those are overfishing, pollution, increased ocean noise, and rising sea temperatures due to climate change. Human demands on the oceans are increasing dramatically.

[IMG] Biodiversity in Cashes Ledge. Photo: Brian Skerry.
Biodiversity in the kelp forests of Cashes Ledge in the northeast Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Brian Skerry

The National Ocean Policy was the first effort by the federal government to comprehensively manage our shared ocean resources responsibly and sustainably. The 2010 policy was based on the recommendations of two bipartisan ocean commissions, substantial public input, and decades of strong scientific research. It allowed both public and private sector entities to assess the best available science and highlighted the need for effective coordination among stakeholders. New England embraced the process, and our region was the first to submit a plan for certification in 2016.

“Science-based decision-making is the best way to ensure that we use our ocean resources in a way that provides economic and environmental benefits to all Americans for generations to come, rather than just provide a short-lived economic benefit that is likely to have significant and often unanticipated consequences,” said John Mandelman, Ph.D., Vice President and Chief Scientist at the Anderson Cabot Center.

While the June 19 executive order retains some of the strong points of the 2010 National Ocean Policy, such as interagency coordination, public access to marine data and information, and the use of science in the establishment of policy, it removes features that made the original National Ocean Policy effective. Specifically, the new plan abolishes the Regional Planning Bodies that helped New England create an inclusive, coordinated ocean plan and removes language that focuses on conservation and climate resilience efforts for our oceans.

The oceans are the most important habitat on the planet, and healthy oceans are vital to our lives and an integral part of New England’s identity. It is our obligation to be responsible stewards of the resources in our backyard and to ensure the vitality and success of the region well into the future. As we continue to use this vital resource, the only way to ensure strong and sustainable oceans is through evidence-based decision-making, coordination, and communication among all stakeholders.

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