Dear Chairs Sutley and Holdren and National Ocean Council Members:
The recently released Draft National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan is a giant step forward in advancing the National Ocean Policy and helping to create healthier oceans and coasts and stronger economies for our coastal communities. The Plan shows great strength in providing a cohesive framework for National Ocean Policy implementation and being an action-oriented plan that provides for government accountability. As you move to finalize this plan, please consider the following recommendations:
Protecting, maintaining and restoring the health of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes must be of primary importance with an emphasis to achieve conservation milestones that can provide immediate ecological benefit such as the protection and restoration of coastal and marine habitat for priority species;
Ensure the plan does not overlook needed new actions and does not only propose existing government plans and programs;
Produce an implementation status report every two years that notes progress on reaching ecological indicators and the actions and milestones in the Plan; and
Fully utilize existing legal authorities to implement the National Ocean Policy.
The National Ocean Council should also prioritize needed funding for regional ocean partnerships in those regions which are best prepared to begin regional planning bodies and convene stakeholder participation. Regional ocean partnerships can create the best value of scarce federal funding by bringing federal, state, tribal, scientific and non-governmental entities together to start to address ocean management challenges.
The National Ocean Policy is founded on sound science, an inclusive and transparent public and stakeholder engagement process, the protection of habitat and wildlife populations, and encourages government at all levels to work together. The Draft Implementation Plan reflects over two years worth of hard work, investment and commitment made by state governments, commercial and industrial ocean users, universities and scientists, 27 federal agencies and departments and tens of thousands of citizens across the country to move our oceans toward better ocean management. I urge the National Ocean Council to operationalize the National Ocean Policy as soon as possible through this Implementation Plan with the goal of creating the enduring environmental stewardship of our ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems.