Obama Administration Releases Action Plan to Address Ocean Challenges

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USDA Release No. 0007.12

Obama Administration Releases Action Plan to Address Ocean Challenges

WASHINGTON, DC (MMD Newswire) January 13, 2012 -- The Obama Administration released a National Ocean Policy action plan this week to address the most pressing challenges facing ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. The draft requests comments on actions the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies on the National Ocean Council will take to improve the health of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes, which support tens of millions of jobs, contribute trillions of dollars annually to the national economy, and are essential to public health and national security.

"How we treat our lands has a direct impact on the health of our oceans," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The National Ocean Policy action plan will further USDA's collaborative partnerships to improve water quality through voluntary conservation efforts on private lands."

The draft action plan will ensure the federal government targets its resources to more effectively and efficiently deliver results for Americans, including greater predictability for ocean users and better access to the latest science and information related to ocean health. The actions reflect ideas and input from industry, conservation groups, local officials, the public and other stakeholders who provided critical feedback to the National Ocean Council through two public comment periods and 12 regional listening sessions.

Ocean and coastal resources are under pressure from growing and often competing uses, such as national security, recreation, shipping, energy production and commercial fishing, as well as from pollution, resource extraction and climate change. The draft implementation plan focuses on public-private partnerships, promoting efficiency and collaboration across sectors, managing resources with an integrated approach, and making available and using the best science and information on ocean health. The draft plan outlines key milestones, identifies responsible federal agencies and indicates the expected timeframe for completion of actions. Under the plan, USDA will:

Establish integrated interagency modeling, monitoring and assessment partnerships in priority watersheds to better evaluate the effectiveness of land treatment practices, including the Mississippi River Basin Initiative led by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service;

Collaborate with other federal departments, through the Interagency Working Group on Aquaculture chaired by the USDA National Institute on Food and Agriculture, to identify and pursue aquaculture permitting regulatory efficiencies; and

Initiate a showcase project between the U.S. Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency linking healthy watershed protection to estuary protection, and evaluating the success in protecting and conserving high quality coastal waters.

The plan also makes it a priority to:

Provide scientific information to support emerging sustainable uses of resources including fisheries, renewable energy, aquaculture and biotechnology;

Provide open access to data and information across the federal government for state and local decision-makers, ocean users, stakeholders and the public;

Identify and make available grant and partnership opportunities to support regional priorities;

Develop methods and standards for assessing the resilience of natural resources, cultural resources, coastal communities and infrastructure in a changing climate; and

Identify and conserve habitat for priority fish species.

To read the draft Implementation Plan and submit comments, please visit www.whitehouse.gov/oceans.

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The National Ocean Policy, established by Executive Order 13547 on July 19th, 2010, provides that federal agencies will "ensure the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhance the sustainability of ocean and coastal economies, preserve our maritime heritage, support sustainable uses and access, provide for adaptive management to enhance our understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change and ocean acidification, and coordinate with our national security and foreign policy interests." The policy also called for the creation of an interagency National Ocean Council to oversee the policy's implementation. For more information about the council please visit www.whitehouse.gov/oceans.

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