Order Code IB10132
CRS Issue Brief for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Ocean Policy Review and Outlook
Updated June 30, 2006
John R. Justus, Eugene H. Buck, Jeffrey A. Zinn, and
Wayne A. Morrissey
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy
Reports and Working Documents
Delivery of the Commission Report
Summary of Commission Recommendations
Changes Contained in the Final Report
Comments on the U.S. Commission’s Work
Delivery of Administration Response
The Pew Oceans Commission
Summary of Commission Recommendations
Comments on the Pew Commission’s Work
Issues for Congress
FOR ADDITIONAL READING
Ocean Commissions: Ocean Policy Review and Outlook
U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (P.L. 106256). Earlier in 2000, the Pew Oceans Commission, an independent group, was established and funded by the Pew Charitable
Trusts to conduct a national dialogue on the
policies needed to restore and protect living
marine resources in U.S. waters. After several
years of work, the Pew Commission released
its final report in June 2003, America’s Living
Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change,
outlining a national agenda for protecting and
restoring our oceans.
The Marine Resources and Engineering
Development Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-454) stated
U.S. marine policy objectives, created a National Council on Marine Resources and
Engineering Development, and set up a presidential Commission on Marine Science,
Engineering, and Resources (called the Stratton Commission after its chairman, Dr. Julius
Stratton). The commission’s 1969 final report,
Our Nation and the Sea: A Plan for National
Action, contained recommendations that led to
reorganizing federal ocean programs by establishing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), beginning new
ocean programs, and strengthening existing
The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy
convened its inaugural meeting in September
2001, and established a Science Advisory
Panel plus four working groups to address
issues in the areas of governance; research,
education, and marine operations; stewardship; and investment and implementation.
After hearing from 440 presenters in 10 cities
over 11 months, the U.S. Commission
published its final report in two stages. First,
in April 2004, the commission released a
Preliminary Report for review and comment
by the nation’s governors and interested
stakeholders. Stage two began when the
public comment period closed June 4, 2004,
and the commission commenced reviewing
the comments received from the governors
and others. On July 22, 2004, the commission
approved changes to its Preliminary Report
and directed staff to prepare the final report,
officially titled An Ocean Blueprint for the
21st Century. That report, with its recommendations on a coordinated and comprehensive
national ocean policy, was delivered to the
President and Congress on September 20,
2004. On December 17, 2004, the President
submitted to Congress the U.S. Ocean Action
Plan, his formal response to the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.
By the late 1980s, however, 20 years
after the Stratton Commission, a number of
influential voices among the executive, congressional, and public sectors had concluded
that ocean management by the United States
was fragmented and characterized by a confusing array of laws, regulations, and practices
at the federal, state, and local levels. Moreover, it seemed that various agencies charged
with implementing and enforcing legal regimes had mandates that often conflicted, with
no mechanism for establishing a common
vision and objectives. Support coalesced
around the need for a congressional mandate
to establish a National Oceans Policy Commission, sometimes called a Stratton II Commission, guided by four principles: sustaining
the economic benefits of the oceans; strengthening global security; exploring and understanding the oceans; and preserving and protecting ocean resources while encouraging
their enlightened use. Legislation creating
such a commission was considered in the 98th,
99th, 100th, and 105th Congresses, but it was
not until the 106th Congress in 2000 that
legislation was finally enacted to establish a
Congressional Research Service
The Library of Congress
MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
A year and a half after the release of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy’s historic
report and nearly three years after the release of the Pew Oceans Commission report, some
progress on ocean policy reform has been made. However, hundreds of recommendations
suggested by the two commissions have not been addressed.
An assessment released in 2006, U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card, reflects the lack of
progress in implementing new measures, while recognizing that efforts are being made at
many levels. The Report Card was produced by the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a
collaborative effort involving former members of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and
Pew Oceans Commission to catalyze ocean policy reform. The initiative is guided by a
ten-member task force, five who served on each commission, and is led by Admiral James
D. Watkins and the Honorable Leon E. Panetta, former chairs of the U.S. Commission and
Pew Commission, respectively. The Report Card assesses the initial reaction to the
commissions’ reports and also assigns grades for actions taken (or not) in 2005. The results
were a grade point average (GPA) of a little over 1.6, or a letter grade D+. The Report Card
also highlights where additional efforts by Congress, the Administration, states, and
nongovernmental stakeholders are necessary and where opportunities for improvements exist
in each of the following areas: national ocean governance reform; regional and state ocean
governance reform; international leadership; research, science, and education; fisheries
management reform; and new funding for ocean policy and programs. More information
about the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, and the complete U.S. Ocean Policy Report
Card, may be found at [http://www.jointoceancommission.org].
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
Congress has shown particular interest in ocean affairs in recent decades, examining in
detail components of the federal ocean programs, enacting legislation creating new ocean
programs, and taking steps to define a national ocean policy. The Marine Resources and
Engineering Development Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-454) set up a National Council on Marine
Resources and Engineering Development in the White House and initiated work by a
presidential bipartisan Commission on Marine Science, Engineering, and Resources. Dr.
Julius Stratton, then recently retired president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and, at the time, Chairman of the Board of the Ford Foundation, was appointed chairman of
the commission by President Lyndon Johnson. The commission, composed of 15 members,
was often referred to as the Stratton Commission. In 1969, the commission completed its
final report, Our Nation and the Sea: A Plan for National Action, and its more than 120
formal recommendations provided what many consider to be the most comprehensive
statement of federal policy for exploration of, and development of, resources from the ocean.
The study and its contents were instrumental in defining the structure, if not all the substance,
of what a national ocean policy could or should look like. Furthermore, new ocean-oriented
programs were initiated and existing ones were strengthened in the years following the
commission’s report, through a number of laws enacted by Congress.
Recommendations of the Stratton Commission led directly, within the following decade,
to forming the National Sea Grant College Program and creating the National Advisory
Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere (NACOA) and to reorganizing federal ocean
programs under the newly established National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA). Subsequent legislation on estuarine reserves, national marine sanctuaries, marine
mammal protection, coastal zone management, fishery conservation and management, ocean
pollution, and seabed mining also reflected commission recommendations. Efforts sprang
up within the federal government and among various interagency committees and federal
advisory committees to flesh out how best to implement a truly comprehensive and forwardlooking national ocean policy, most notably articulated in the 1978 Department of Commerce
report U.S. Ocean Policy in the 1970s: Status and Issues.1
Since 1980, with concerns about limiting federal expenditures and streamlining of
government, there have been fewer ocean initiatives, and a number of ocean programs,
particularly those of NOAA, have been consolidated and reduced; however, the programs
begun in the 1970s generally have been reauthorized and have been able to mature. By the
late 1980s, some 20 years after the Stratton Commission and in a climate created by those
successive periods of expansion and relative stability, there appeared to be a broad consensus
among those conversant in ocean affairs that a need existed to redefine or, at the very least,
better define national ocean policy. Two stimuli for this renewed interest were the 1983
proclamation by President Reagan establishing a 200-nautical-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic
Zone (EEZ) and the 1988 extension of the U.S. territorial sea from 3 to 12 nautical miles,
both of which came in the aftermath of the President’s decision that the United States would
not sign the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Legislation creating an oceans commission and/or a national ocean council to review
U.S. ocean policy was introduced and hearings were held in the 98th, 99th, 100th, and 105th
Congresses. In fact, legislation did indeed pass the House in October 1983, September 1987,
and again in October 1988, but was not acted on by the Senate in any of those instances. In
the 105th Congress, legislation creating both a national ocean council and a commission on
ocean policy passed the Senate in November of 1997, and in 1998 the House passed a bill
creating just a commission on ocean policy. Congress adjourned in 1998, however, before
differences could be reconciled and a bill enacted. It was not until the 106th Congress in
2000 that legislation was finally enacted to establish a 16-member U.S. Commission on
Ocean Policy (P.L. 106-256). That enactment rode a crest of interest generated largely by
a National Ocean Conference convened by the White House in June 1998, in Monterey, CA,
and attended by President Clinton and Vice President Gore,2 and capitalized on a proactive
spirit surrounding the declaration by the United Nations of 1998 as the International Year of
the Ocean.3 Momentum was facilitated with the September 1999 release of a post-Monterey
conference report, ordered by the President and prepared by members of his Cabinet, entitled
U.S. Dept. of Commerce, U.S. Ocean Policy in the 1970s: Status and Issues (Washington, DC:
GPO, 1978), 334 pp.
U.S. Dept. of Commerce and Dept. of the Navy, Oceans of Commerce ... Oceans of Life,
Proceedings of the National Ocean Conference, June 11-12, 1998, Monterey, CA (Washington, DC:
NOAA, 1998), vi + 241 pp.
The International Year of the Ocean was proclaimed by the U.N. General Assembly on Dec. 19,
1994, in resolution A/RES/49/131, Question of Declaring 1998 International Year of the Ocean, at
the initiative of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the U.N. Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Turning to the Sea: America’s Ocean Future, in which recommendations were offered for
a coordinated, disciplined, long-term federal ocean policy.4
Also in 2000, partially in response to that rekindled interest, and partially in response
to congressional legislation having failed final passage in 1998, the Pew Charitable Trusts
established the Pew Oceans Commission, an independent group of 18 American experts in
their respective fields of endeavor. The Pew Commission’s charge was to conduct a national
dialogue on the policies needed to restore and protect living marine resources in U.S. waters.
Pew interests had forged ahead with their effort after an unsuccessful attempt to gain support
among key Members of Congress to introduce legislation that would have established a
public/private, non-governmental oceans commission.
U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy
The Oceans Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-256) mandated a U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.
Appointed by the President, the commission was required to issue findings and make
recommendations to the President and Congress for a coordinated and comprehensive
national ocean policy. The new policy was to address a broad range of issues, from the
stewardship of marine resources and pollution prevention to enhancing and supporting
marine science, commerce, and transportation. The full scope, stated in §3(f)(2) of the
Oceans Act, is:
(A) An assessment of existing and planned facilities associated with ocean and coastal
activities, including human resources, vessels, computers, satellites, and other
appropriate platforms and technologies;
(B) A review of existing and planned ocean and coastal activities of federal entities,
recommendations for changes in such activities to improve efficiency and
effectiveness and to reduce duplication of federal efforts;
(C) A review of the cumulative effect of federal laws and regulations on U.S. ocean and
coastal activities and resources, an examination of those laws and regulations for
inconsistencies and contradictions that might harm those ocean and coastal
activities and resources, a review of conflicts with state ocean and coastal
management regimes, and recommendations for resolving such inconsistencies to
the extent practicable;
(D) A review of the known and anticipated supply of, and demand for, ocean and
coastal resources of the United States;
(E) A review of and recommendations concerning the relationship between federal,
state, and local governments and the private sector in planning and carrying out
ocean and coastal activities;
(F) A review of opportunities for developing or investing in new products,
technologies, or markets related to ocean and coastal activities;
(G) A review of previous and ongoing state and federal efforts to enhance the
effectiveness and integration of ocean and coastal activities;
(H) Recommendations for any modifications to U.S. laws, regulations, and the
administrative structure of Executive agencies necessary to improve the
understanding, management, conservation, use of, and access to ocean and coastal
U.S. Dept. of Commerce and Dept. of the Navy, Turning to the Sea: America’s Ocean Future
(Washington, DC: NOAA, 1999), 64 p.
A review of the effectiveness and adequacy of existing federal interagency ocean
policy coordination mechanisms, and recommendations for changing or improving
the effectiveness of such mechanisms necessary to respond to or implement the
recommendations of the commission.
The 16 appointments to the commission by President Bush were finalized on July 3,
2001. Those appointments were based on a process that included nominations by the
Congress and appointment by the President.
The commission convened its inaugural meeting on September 17-18, 2001, in
Washington, DC, and commissioners selected Admiral James D. Watkins, U.S. Navy
(Retired) as chairman. Through several sessions the commission established four working
groups to address issues in the areas of governance; research, education, and marine
operations; stewardship; and investment and implementation. The working groups were
charged with reviewing and analyzing issues within their specific areas of focus and
reporting their findings to the full commission.
The Oceans Act of 2000 specifically directed the commission to establish a Science
Advisory Panel to assist in preparing the report and to ensure that the scientific information
considered by the commission and used by each of the working groups was based on the best
scientific information available. The composition of the Science Advisory Panel was
determined by the commissioners; members were recruited in consultation with the Ocean
Studies Board of the National Research Council at the National Academy of Sciences and
reflected the breadth of issues before the commission. The commission agreed that the
Science Advisory Panel members would be divided into four working groups consistent with
the full commission’s working group structure.
The commission began its work by launching a series of public meetings to gather
information and hear about the most pressing issues that the nation faced regarding the use
and stewardship of the oceans. The working groups played a vital role in maximizing the
effectiveness of the regional public meetings and identifying key issues to be addressed by
the commission. Group members ensured that, in each region visited, the commission heard
presentations on a balanced and wide-ranging set of topics and elicited information necessary
to ultimately address the requirements put forth in the Oceans Act of 2000. Based on the
information gathered at the public meetings, the working groups identified and reviewed key
issues, outlined possible options for addressing those issues, and determined the need for
white papers to provide more detailed information on specific topics. The deliberations of
each working group were shared with the other groups throughout the process to ensure
thorough integration and coordination in developing the final commission report and
After hearing from 440 presenters at 15 public meetings in 10 cities over 11 months and
conducting 17 additional site visits around the country, the commission completed its
information-gathering phase in October 2002. The commission entered its deliberative phase
in November 2002, and the last meeting dedicated to open public discussion of policy
options — the fifteenth and final public commission meeting — was held April 2-3, 2003,
in Washington, DC.
Reports and Working Documents. Supporting documents, working papers, and
publications either produced for or generated by the commission include:
Draft Policy Option Documents. At its meeting on November 22, 2002, the
commission made the transition from fact-finding to deliberation with its
first public discussion of a document entitled Draft Policy Options. The
issues were organized and presented within the framework of the
commission’s new Draft Table of Contents Document, which also was made
available at the meeting. Progressive and revised versions of both the Draft
Policy Options Documents and the Draft Table of Contents Document were
prepared and distributed at successive commission meetings on January 24,
2003, and on April 2-3, 2003.
Working Table of Contents. In May 2003, the commission posted the initial
framework for its draft final report in a Working Table of Contents. This
document has evolved based on ongoing analyses, discussions,
deliberations, writing, and editing.
Synthesis and Summary of Testimony. Two documents were completed in
June 2003. A Synthesis of Testimony Organized by Policy Topic highlights
the presentations made to the commission at its public meetings held from
September 2001 through November 2002. A Summary of Testimony
Indexed by Presenter includes overviews of invited testimony and public
comment before the commission at those same public meetings.
Governing the Oceans. This document was prepared by the Sea Grant Law
Center, University of Mississippi, for use by the commission members and
staff as a reference during their work collecting and analyzing information
about the nation’s oceans and coasts. It contains a Cumulative List of
Statutes, Summaries of Other Relevant Laws, International Materials, and
Resources (including acronyms and internet sites).
Developing a National Ocean Policy: Midterm Report of the U.S.
Commission on Ocean Policy. This September 2002 report describes the
commission’s activities, plans, and some preliminary observations as the
commission moved to complete its fact-finding phase.
Toward a National Ocean Policy: Ocean Policy Topics and Related Issues
Document (Working Draft for Public Comment). This July 2002 paper was
designed to present both the scope and the content of a potential national
ocean policy. Specifically, the commission was interested in whether or not
the topics and questions outlined in this document captured the key issue
areas for policy options that should be addressed by the commission, as
required by the Oceans Act of 2000.
Elements Document. Entitled Developing a National Policy for Our Ocean
Future and released in April 2002, the Elements Document, as it came to be
known, contained the broad ocean policy elements that the commission
identified as essential to a sound national ocean policy. This document
would serve as a framework for the commission’s inquiry and eventual
development of recommendations.
Law of the Sea Resolution. Passed unanimously by the members of the
commission at their meeting in Washington, D.C., on November 14, 2001,
the resolution recommended that the United States immediately accede to
the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
All of the documents listed above are available in pdf format on the commission’s website
Delivery of the Commission Report. The commission published its final report
in two stages. First, on April 20, 2004, the commission released a Preliminary Report, which
was available for a 30-day period of review and comment by the nation’s governors and
interested stakeholders. That Preliminary Report was built on information presented at the
public meetings and site visits, combined with the latest scientific and technical information
on oceans and coasts and input from hundreds of experts. Although the Preliminary Report
was a work in progress, its findings and policy recommendations reflected a consensus of
commission members and presented what the commissioners believed to be a balanced
approach to protecting the ocean environment while sustaining the vital role oceans and
coasts play in the national economy.5 On May 14, 2004, the commission announced that it
had extended the closing date for public comment on the Preliminary Report to June 4, 2004.
The extension applied to governors and all other stakeholders.
Stage two commenced when the public comment period closed on June 4 and the
commission began reviewing the comments received and modifying the report in response
to gubernatorial or stakeholder input. At its 16th public meeting on July 22, 2004, the U.S.
Commission on Ocean Policy approved changes to its Preliminary Report and directed staff
to prepare the final report, bearing the official title An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century.
That report, with its recommendations on a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean
policy, was delivered to the President and Congress on September 20, 2004, in ceremonies
at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Summary of Commission Recommendations. The commission presented 212
recommendations throughout An Ocean Blueprint; however, thirteen “critical” actions
recommended by the commission can be summarized as follows:
Establish a National Ocean Council in the Executive Office of the President,
chaired by an Assistant to the President.
Create a President’s Council of Advisors on Ocean Policy.
Strengthen NOAA and improve the federal agency structure.
Develop a flexible and voluntary process for creating regional ocean councils,
facilitated and supported by the National Ocean Council.
Double the nation’s investment in ocean research.
The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy’s preliminary report, Preliminary Report of the U.S.
Commission on Ocean Policy, was available at [http://oceancommission.gov/documents/prelim
report/welcome.html] on April 27, 2004.
Implement the national Integrated Ocean Observing System.6
Increase attention to ocean education through coordinated and effective
formal and informal programs.
Strengthen the link between coastal and watershed management.
Create a coordinated management regime for federal waters.
Create measurable water pollution reduction goals, particularly for nonpoint
sources, and strengthen incentives, technical assistance, and other
management tools to reach those goals.
Reform fisheries management by separating assessment and allocation,
improving the Regional Fishery Management Council system, and exploring
the use of dedicated access privileges.
Accede to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Establish an Ocean Policy Trust Fund based on revenue from offshore oil and
gas development and other new and emerging offshore uses to pay for
implementing the recommendations.
Changes Contained in the Final Report. At its 16th public meeting on July 22,
2004, the commission unanimously approved a number of modifications to recommendations
and text in the commission’s Preliminary Report, which were carried through to the final
report, An Ocean Blueprint. There is, however, no change in the thirteen critical actions
listed above. Those modifications derived from comments totaling more than 600 pages
from 37 governors and five tribal leaders, over 800 public commenters, stakeholders and
other experts and advisers, as well as technical corrections provided from federal agencies.
A detailed summary of specific changes appearing in An Ocean Blueprint are available on
the commission’s website.7 Changes of an overall general nature now in the final report
include the following:
The report was revised to further emphasize the important role of states, and
to clarify that the Commission favors a balanced, not a “top down” approach
of shared responsibility to ocean and coastal issues.
The report clarifies the Commission’s intent to embrace all coastal areas and
decision makers, including the Great Lakes, U.S. territories, and tribes.
Many sections of the report were revised to address the issue of climate
change and its impacts on the oceans and coasts.
The importance of cultural heritage in connection with the ocean was more
fully recognized and addressed.
Discussions about the funding needed to implement recommendations were
consolidated into an expanded Chapter 30 (“Funding Needs and Possible
Comments on the U.S. Commission’s Work. The Governors’ and Tribal
Leaders’ comments on the Commission’s Preliminary Report were generally favorable. Most
An integrated regional system including (1) raw measurements of oceanographic parameters, with
data assembled and checked for quality; (2) data management and communications involving a
system of standards and protocols to allow a wide variety of data to be located, integrated, and
archived; and (3) data analysis and incorporation into models of environmental behavior.
of the 42 respondents (37 governors and 5 tribal leaders) highlighted the report’s
comprehensive treatment of ocean and coastal issues, the economic importance of oceans and
coasts, and the need to take immediate action to protect and enhance the health of these
resources. Their primary concerns related to funding issues; the participation of states,
territories, and tribes in national policy development; and the need for flexibility in the
implementation of such policies.8
Public comments were received from private citizens (including school children), nongovernmental organizations, trade associations, governmental and quasi-governmental
organizations (e.g., regional fishery management councils), academicians, scientists, and
lawyers. The vast majority of public commenters thanked the Commission for its hard work,
praised the report as comprehensive and balanced, and voiced their support for
implementation of the recommendations. Although many were supportive of the report’s
major themes and recommendations, a significant number of commenters highlighted areas
of particular concern, including national and regional governance, federal organization,
offshore management regimes, funding for science and research and for implementation of
Commission recommendations, ecosystem based management, regulation and enforcement,
and living marine resources. Furthermore, there were numerous additional comments on a
suite of issues, including cruise ships, climate change, atmospheric deposition, invasive
species, bottom-trawling, bycatch, wind energy, coastal development, international ocean
policy, and seafood safety.9
Soon after the release of the commission’s preliminary report, individual Members of
Congress commented on the report and its recommendations.10 Some Members identified
recommendations, such as the transfer of NASA earth satellites to NOAA,11 for specific
criticism. Meanwhile, members of the commission and participants in its advisory process
generally spoke favorably of its recommendations.12 Articles and editorials in regional media
generally focused on selected issues of local relevance,13 and interest groups highlighted
specific issues.14 Some states have made their comments publically available.15 Some
A general summary of comments submitted by the governors and tribal leaders on the Preliminary
Report is available online at the Commission’s website, [http://www.oceancommission.gov/
newsnotices/summary_govcomments.pdf]. The full text of their comments is also available online
A two-page summary of the public comments is available online at the Commission’s website
For example, see [http://cantwell.senate.gov/news/releases/2004_04_20_oceans.html], visited on
July 7, 2004.
For example, see [http://www.seaflow.org/article.php?id=179], visited on July 7, 2004.
For example, see [http://www.ocean.udel.edu/newscenter/OceanQA.html], viewed on July 7, 2004.
Greg C. Bruno, “Sea Change for State: National Ocean Report Could Have Big Impact on
Florida,” Gainesville Sun, Apr. 21, 2004; Wesley Loy, “Commission Gives Props to Alaska
Fisheries,” Anchorage Daily News, Apr. 20, 2004.
For example, see [http://www.boatus.com/gov/oceanpolicy/], visited July 7, 2004.
For example, see those of Texas posted at [http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/bpp/files/
criticism has focused on the timing of the report’s release and comment period as conflicting
with resource users’ busiest times,16 while others criticized the report and recommendations
as further contributing to excessive government control.17
Delivery of Administration Response. Within 120 days after receiving and
considering the commission’s report, the President was required to submit to Congress a
statement of proposals to implement or respond to the commission’s recommendations for
a national policy on ocean and coastal resources (§4(a) of P.L. 106-256). In doing so, the
President was directed to consult with state and local governments and non-federal
organizations and individuals involved in ocean and coastal activities (§4(b) of P.L. 106256).
On December 17, 2004, the President submitted to Congress U.S. Ocean Action Plan,
his formal response to the recommendations of the U.S. Commission. The content and text
of the 39-page Action Plan may be viewed in pdf format at [http://ocean.ceq.gov/actionplan.
pdf]. Also on December 17, President Bush signed an executive order establishing, as a part
of the Council on Environmental Quality and for administrative purposes only, a Committee
on Ocean Policy. That committee would be led by the chairman of the Council on
Environmental Quality. The details of the executive order may be found on the White House
website at [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/12/20041217-5.html].
The Pew Oceans Commission
The Pew Oceans Commission, an independent group of 18 American leaders, was
established in April 2000 and funded by a $5.5 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts
to conduct a national dialogue on the policies needed to restore and protect living marine
resources in U.S. waters. This commission released its final report, America’s Living
Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change, on June 4, 2003, outlining a national agenda for
protecting and restoring our oceans.18 In addition, during this process, nine “science reports”
were also prepared and released.19
Summary of Commission Recommendations. The commission’s 26
recommendations, organized within six categories, can be summarized as follows:
ocean_policy.pdf], visited on July 7, 2004.
For example, see [http://congress.org/congressorg/bio/userletter/?id=159&letter_id=93815376],
visited July 7, 2004.
For example, see [http://www.seaflow.org/article.php?id=179], visited July 7, 2004.
The full report was available at [http://www.pewtrusts.org/pdf/env_pew_oceans_final_report.pdf]
on Feb. 19, 2004.
The topics of the nine science reports were (1) Managing Marine Fisheries in the United States;
(2) A Dialogue on America’s Fisheries; (3) Socioeconomic Perspectives on Marine Fisheries in the
United States; (4) Marine Reserves: A Tool for Ecosystem Management and Conservation; (5)
Ecological Effects of Fishing; (6) Coastal Sprawl; (7) Marine Pollution; (8) Marine Aquaculture;
and (9) Introduced Species.
A. Governance for Sustainable Seas
1. Enact a National Ocean Policy Act to protect, maintain, and restore the
health, integrity, resilience, and productivity of our oceans.
2. Establish regional ocean ecosystem councils to develop and implement
enforceable regional ocean governance plans.
3. Establish a national system of fully protected marine reserves.
4. Establish an independent national oceans agency.
5. Establish a permanent federal interagency oceans council.
B. Restoring America’s Fisheries
6. Redefine the principal objective of American marine fishery policy to
protect marine ecosystems.
7. Separate conservation and allocation decisions.
8. Implement ecosystem-based planning and marine zoning.
9. Regulate the use of fishing gear that is destructive to marine habitats.
10. Require bycatch monitoring and management plans as a condition of
11. Require comprehensive access and allocation planning as a condition of
12. Establish a permanent fishery conservation and management trust fund.
C. Preserving Our Coasts
13. Develop an action plan to address non-point source pollution and protect
water quality on a watershed basis.
14. Identify and protect from development habitat critical for the functioning
of coastal ecosystems.
15. Institute effective mechanisms at all levels of government to manage
development and minimize its impact on coastal ecosystems.
16. Redirect government programs and subsidies away from harmful coastal
development and toward beneficial activities, including restoration.
D. Cleaning Coastal Waters
17. Revise, strengthen, and expand pollution laws to focus on non-point
18. Address unabated point sources of pollution, such as concentrated animal
feeding operations and cruise ships.
19. Create a flexible framework to address emerging and nontraditional
sources of pollution, such as invasive species and noise.
20. Strengthen control over toxic pollution.
E. Guiding Sustainable Marine Aquaculture
21. Implement a new national marine aquaculture policy based on sound
conservation principles and standards.
22. Set a standard, and provide international leadership, for ecologically
sound marine aquaculture practices.
F. Science, Education, and Funding
23. Develop and implement a comprehensive national ocean research and
24. Double funding for basic ocean science and research.
25. Improve the use of existing scientific information by creating a
mechanism or institution that regularly provides independent scientific
oversight of ocean and coastal management.
26. Broaden ocean education and awareness through a commitment to teach
and learn about our oceans, at all levels of society.
Comments on the Pew Commission’s Work. As anticipated, comments on the
commission’s work ranged the full gamut from dismissive to laudatory. Some were
concerned that the commission’s work was not objective, being overly influenced by the
“environmental agenda” of the Pew Charitable Trusts as an attack on commercial seafood
harvesting, while ignoring other significant issues such as the damaging effects of oil spills
in the marine environment.20 Representative Richard Pombo, Chairman of the House
Committee on Resources, issued a press release critical of the Pew Commission report,
concluding “we cannot expect such a group to issue non-biased recommendations.”21 Praise
for the report came primarily from commission members, who saw the report as a long
overdue update of antiquated U.S. ocean policy, offering practical solutions to reverse
declining trends.22 John Flicker, the President of the Audubon Society, referred to this report
as a wake-up call to all Americans that our oceans and coastal areas are in real trouble, and
providing a blueprint for action to protect ecosystems at risk.23 It is important, however, to
recognize that the Pew Commission report covered only a limited portion of the topics
comprising the universe of ocean issues, compared with the U.S. Commission on Ocean
Policy, which covered a much broader cross-section of issues within that universe.
Other than the House Resources Committee press release, others in Congress did not
immediately react to the release of the Pew Oceans Commission report. Although the Pew
report was subsequently mentioned in several congressional fora, Congress has postponed
any action until the completion of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy’s report and
recommendations. It is not entirely clear exactly what influence the Pew report has had
either on Congress or, for that matter, on the deliberations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean
Policy, although it should be recognized that Pew commissioners, including chairman Leon
Panetta, did testify before the U.S. Commission on several occasions.
Issues for Congress
The 109th Congress is considering legislative responses to the findings and
recommendations of the Pew Oceans Commission report, America’s Living Oceans:
Charting a Course for Sea Change, and the report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy,
An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century.
Nils E. Stolpe, The Pew Commission — A Basis for National Ocean Policy? Available at
[http://www.fishingnj.org/netusa23.htm], visited Feb. 19, 2004.
[http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/Press/releases/2003/0604Pews.htm], visited Feb. 19, 2004.
Pat White and Jane Lubchenco, “New Policies on Ocean Fishing Overdue,” The Boston Globe
(June 5, 2003), p. A19.
John Flicker, “Save the Coasts, Even if Only for Our Sake,” Sun Sentinel (June 19, 2003) p. 25A.
Those reports covered an array of issues, such as the Law of the Sea; national and
regional governance; federal organization, regulation, and enforcement; offshore
management regimes; funding for sound science and research and for implementing
commission recommendations; oceanic education; coastal and watershed management; and
ecosystem-based management. Ancillary issues relate to questions about the timing and level
of the response and the fiscal implications and out-year budgetary impacts on current and
future ocean programs.
The same law that created the U.S. Commission (P.L. 106-256) also required the
President to submit to Congress a statement responding to the commission’s
recommendations for a national policy on ocean and coastal resources. That statement, U.S.
Ocean Action Plan, was delivered on December 17, 2004. It was confined largely to
documenting current efforts. Many in the ocean community view the Administration’s
response as limited and are likely to seek more extensive congressional action. In the 109th
Congress, committees of relevant jurisdiction have thus far adhered to their own ocean action
agendas, guided, in large part, by the Pew and U.S. Commission reports, and shown little
interest in holding hearings to assess the Administration’s statement.
The 109th Congress also is considering other ocean matters, including ocean exploration;
ocean and coastal observing systems; marine debris research, prevention, and reduction; and
ocean and coastal mapping integration. Related issues have arisen, such as whether to (1)
provide additional funds for ocean-related research; (2) replace a fragmented administrative
structure with a more overall, coherent federal organization; or (3) adopt bold new
approaches for managing marine resources, such as setting aside large reserves from selected
or all uses. Two omnibus bills were introduced in June 2005, H.R. 2939 and S. 1224, whose
contents encompass this broad array of crosscutting concerns. Hearings on that legislation
are anticipated at some point in this current congressional session.
H.R. 50 (Ehlers). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Organic Act.
Reestablishes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the
Department of Commerce (DOC), headed by an Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans
and Atmosphere who shall serve as the Administrator of NOAA. The bill would create a
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for science and technology to coordinate science
activities across the agency. NOAA would be restructured around four areas: the National
Weather Service, Research and Education, Operations and Services, and Resources
Management. The bill also would create a chief operating officer to manage the agency’s
day-to-day operations. The House Science Committee adopted a substitute amendment that
would emphasize NOAA’s role in forecasting tsunamis, require NOAA to notify Congress
when it starts new satellite programs, and clarify that nothing in the bill would affect the
authority of other federal agencies. Introduced January 4, 2005, and referred to House
Committee on Science and House Committee on Resources. House Science Subcommittee
on Environment, Technology, and Standards voted March 15, 2005, to approve, with
amendments, for full committee consideration. House Science Committee markup session
held May 17, 2005, and H.R. 50 ordered to be reported (amended). House Resources
Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans held a hearing May 19, 2005;
subcommittee consideration and markup session held May 19, 2005. Superseded by H.R.
H.R. 2939 (C. Weldon). Oceans Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for
the 21st Century Act. A bill to establish a national policy for our oceans, to strengthen the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and to establish a Committee on Ocean
Policy. The purpose of this act is to secure, for present and future generations of people of
the United States, the full range of ecological, economic, educational, social, cultural,
nutritional, and recreational benefits of healthy marine ecosystems, by (1) establishing a
comprehensive national oceans policy that is binding on all covered actions that may
significantly affect U.S. ocean waters and ocean resources; (2) requiring covered actions to
be consistent with the purposes and policies of this act; (3) mandating that clear standards
be set against which compliance with the national oceans policy can be measured; (4)
providing a mechanism through which compliance with this act can be assured; (5)
consolidating and restructuring federal ocean programs to support this act; (6) promoting
ecologically sustainable ocean resource use and management by strengthening and
empowering ocean governance; and (7) enhancing responsible ocean stewardship.
Introduced June 16, 2005, and referred to the House Committee on Resources, and in
addition to the House Committee on Science.
H.R. 5450 (Ehlers). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Act. An
organic act that would reestablish the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) in the Department of Commerce (DOC), headed by an Under Secretary of
Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere who shall serve as the Administrator of NOAA, and
would restructure NOAA into four areas: National Weather Service, Research and Education,
Operations and Services, and Resources Management. The legislation would generally
maintain the existing programs, rules, regulations, and leadership structure of NOAA, but
would create a position for a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Science and
Technology to coordinate science activities across the agency and a chief operating officer
to manage the agency’s day-to-day operations. The bill would require NOAA to
communicate weather emergency information to other federal agencies, to report to Congress
annually on contracts and subcontracts with overseas companies and on the off-shoring of
agency jobs, and to report to Congress when major programs experience budget overruns or
delays. Introduced May 22, 2006, and referred to the Committee on Science, and in addition
to the Committee on Resources. On May 31, 2006, House Resources Committee requested
Executive Comment from U.S. Department of Commerce. House Science Committee
markup session held June 14, 2006, and H.R. 5450 ordered to be reported, with amendments.
S. 39 (Stevens). National Ocean Exploration Program Act. A bill to establish a
coordinated national ocean exploration program within the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration. Introduced January 25, 2005, and referred to the Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Committee on Commerce, Science,
and Transportation ordered reported favorably, without amendment, March 10, 2005.
Reported April 13, 2005, by Senator Stevens without amendment, S.Rept. 109-57. Placed
on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders, April 13, 2005, Calendar No. 71.
Passed Senate, July 1, 2005, with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. Referred July 11,
2005, to the House Committee on Science, and in addition to the House Committee on
Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans.
S. 361 (Snowe). Ocean and Coastal Observation System Act of 2005. A bill to develop
and maintain an integrated system of ocean and coastal observations for the nation’s coasts,
oceans, and Great Lakes, improve warnings of tsunamis and other natural hazards, enhance
homeland security, support maritime operations, and for other purposes. Introduced February
10, 2005, and referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation ordered reported favorably, without
amendment, March 10, 2005. Reported April 19, 2005, by Senator Stevens without
amendment, S.Rept. 109-60. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders,
April 19, 2005, Calendar No. 76. Passed Senate July 1, 2005, with an amendment and an
amendment to the Title by Unanimous Consent. Referred July 11, 2005, to the House
Committee on Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans, and in addition to the
Committee on Science.
S. 362 (Inouye). Marine Debris Research Prevention and Reduction Act. A bill to
establish a program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the
United States Coast Guard to help identify, determine sources of, assess, reduce, and prevent
marine debris and its adverse impacts on the marine environment and navigation safety, in
coordination with non-federal entities, and for other purposes. Introduced February 10, 2005,
and referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation ordered reported favorably, with an
amendment, March 10, 2005. Reported April 13, 2005, by Senator Stevens with an
amendment, S.Rept. 109-56. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders,
April 13, 2005, Calendar No. 70. Passed Senate July 1, 2005, with amendments by
Unanimous Consent. Referred July 11, 2005, to the House Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure, and in addition to the House Committee on Resources. House Resources
Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans held hearings September 29, 2005. On November
16, 2005, Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans discharged; Full Committee consideration
and mark-up held; ordered reported (amended) by unanimous consent, H.Rept. 109-332, Part
S. 364 (Inouye). Ocean and Coastal Mapping Integration Act. A bill to establish a
program within the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to integrate federal coastal
and ocean mapping activities. Introduced February 10, 2005, and referred to Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Full committee consideration and
markup held March 10, 2005, by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation. Committee
on Commerce, Science, and Transportation ordered reported favorably, with amendments,
April 14, 2005. Reported July 13, 2005, by Senator Stevens with amendments, S.Rept.
109-102, and placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders, Calendar No.
S. 1224 (Boxer). National Oceans Protection Act of 2005. The purpose of this act is
to secure, for present and future generations of people of the United States, the full range of
environmental, economic, educational, social, cultural, nutritional, and recreational benefits
of healthy marine ecosystems. Includes titles cited as the Ballast Water Management Act of
2005; the Cetacean and Sea Turtle Conservation Act of 2005; the Deep Sea Coral Protection
Act; the Ernest “Fritz” Hollings National Ocean Policy and Leadership Act; and the Fisheries
Science and Management Enhancement Act of 2005. Introduced June 9, 2005, and referred
to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
S.Amdt. 259 to S.Con.Res. 18 (Boxer). To express the sense of the Senate regarding
the need for a comprehensive, coordinated, and integrated national ocean policy. Introduced
March 17, 2005. S.Amdt. 259 agreed to March 17, 2005, in the Senate by unanimous
consent. S.Con.Res. 18 agreed to in Senate with amendments by yea-nay vote, 51-49, March
17, 2005. Senate incorporated S.Con.Res. 18 into H.Con.Res. 95 as an amendment and
agreed to H.Con.Res. 95 on April 4, 2005. Conference report on H.Con.Res. 95 filed April
28, 2005, H.Rept. 109-62. Conference report agreed to in the House (214-211), April 28,
2005. Conference report agreed to in Senate (52-47), April 28, 2005.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING
Buck, Eugene H., Ocean Commission Reports: Side-by-Side Comparison of Provisions on
Living Resources, Excluding Fisheries, CRS Congressional Distribution Memorandum,
September 30, 2004 (updated), 22 pp.
Buck, Eugene H., Ocean Commission Reports: Side-by-Side Comparison of Fishery
Provisions, CRS Congressional Distribution Memorandum, October 4, 2004 (updated),
Gish, Ken and Eric Laschever. “The President’s Ocean Commission: Progress Toward a
New Ocean Policy.” N R & E. Summer 2004. p. 17-19, 79.
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Capital Hill Oceans Week 2003, Summary Report:
Exploring our Oceans, Managing our Marine Areas. June 11-12, 2003 (Silver Spring,
MD: 2003). 30 pp.
Paul, Linda M. B. “The 2003 Pew Oceans Commission Report: Law, Policy, and
Governance.” N R & E. Summer 2004. p. 10-16.
U.S. Dept. of Commerce. President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration. Discovering Earth’s
Final Frontier: A U.S. Strategy for Ocean Exploration (Washington, DC: NOAA,
October 10, 2000). 64 pp.
U.S. Dept. of Commerce and Dept. of the Navy. Oceans of Commerce, Oceans of Life.
Proceedings of the National Ocean Conference, June 11-12, 1998, Monterey, CA
(Washington, DC: NOAA, 1998). vi + 241 pp.
U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Office of the
Chief Scientist. Year of the Ocean Discussion Papers. March 1998. Prepared by the
U.S. Federal Agencies with Ocean-Related Programs for the International Year of the
Ocean (Washington, DC: GPO, 1998). 1 v. (various pagings).