Obama to Create a National Stewardship Policy for America's Oceans and Great Lakes

Remember back in March when President Obama was planning to ban fishing? The Internet went wild, but while the original story that started the frenzy didn't actually say that, it was trying to raise valid concerns about how proposed federal fisheries policies could restrict recreational angling. Well, those policies are about to be implemented...

From this story in the Los Angeles Times:
_President Obama on Monday is set to create a national stewardship policy for America's oceans and Great Lakes, including a type of zoning that could dramatically rebalance the way government regulates offshore drilling, fishing and other marine activities._ _The policy would not create new regulations or immediately alter drilling plans or fisheries management. But White House documents and senior administration officials suggest it would strengthen conservation and ecosystem protection. The initiative culminates more than a year of work by a federal Ocean Policy Task Force, which Obama established last year. After the task force releases its final recommendations, the president is expected to sign an executive order directing federal agencies to adopt and implement them.

Calling the BP oil spill ravaging the Gulf of Mexico a "stark reminder of how vulnerable our marine environments are," the recommendations center on creating a National Ocean Council to coordinate regulation of oceans and the Great Lakes, and on a principle of "ecosystem-based management" for marine areas. The council would include top federal scientists and officials from a variety of agencies, including national security experts, environmental regulators and managers of ocean commerce. The recommendations embrace a controversial practice called marine spatial planning, a zoning process of sorts that seeks to manage waters in the way some cities manage factories and strip malls. The process could result in confining activities such as drilling, shipping and conservation to areas the planners deem best-suited to each use. Nine regional groups ˜ consisting of state, federal and tribal officials ˜ would draft plans for conservation and use of ocean resources that would have to be approved by the National Ocean Council. Federal agencies have agreed to abide by the plans.

...The first draft of the policy, released in September, drew heavy criticism from some quarters, including industry and recreational anglers concerned that sport fishing might be restricted or banned. After a deluge of criticism and meetings with fishing and boating groups, the administration modified the recommendations to emphasize the importance of fishing and ocean recreation, calling them "critical to the economic, social and cultural fabric of our country."

The recommendations do not include curbs on recreational fishing. But the mere prospect of marine spatial planning has drawn skepticism from ocean users.
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