By Anne Merwin
Editor’s note: Anne Merwin is the director of ocean planning at Ocean Conservancy. She can be reached at amerwin [at] oceanconservancy.org.
Recently, the US National Ocean Policy appeared on a list of policies (#286) that the Freedom Caucus, a group of the most conservative members of the Republican party of the US House of Representatives, would like to see examined and potentially revoked. This listing was not a surprise because, over the past five years, attempts to undermine progress of the National Ocean Policy have been made via a series of legislative riders - none of which have yet made it into law. Rhetoric and news surrounding the new administration suggest that President Trump may attempt to remove President Obama’s executive orders on a range of issues, including the National Ocean Policy, and the Freedom Caucus’ list may be used as a starting point. Repeal of the National Ocean Policy executive order would be a major step in the wrong direction and would be based on politics rather than policy.
First, a repeal would not rid us of the fundamental challenges that the National Ocean Policy was designed to address. Second, working together to solve our ocean management challenges should be non-partisan. The National Ocean Policy and regional ocean planning have their roots in recommendations from an expert commission appointed by President George W. Bush, a Republican. In addition, leaders in industry and government on both sides of the political aisle have spoken out in support of the Policy and continue to actively do so under the new presidential administration. Industries and states have expressed their continued need for and support of regional ocean planning. Our hope is that as President Trump and his cabinet think about how to move forward on the National Ocean Policy, they will fully consider the economic benefits of planning and the rights of states to engage on ocean management at a regional scale with federal agencies. This approach makes sense not only for the environment but for businesses as well.
States have worked hard to develop these regional ocean plans with industry and federal partners, and believe this kind of coordination needs to continue. Thanks to that hard work, regional efforts have the momentum and federal agencies have the authority necessary to move ahead regardless of the status of the overarching frame that is the National Ocean Policy.