In a 12 June 2009 memorandum, President Obama announced the creation of a new interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. The interagency panel, which will be led by the chair of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, is charged with developing a national policy that ensures the protection, maintenance, and restoration of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhances ocean sustainability, enhances understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change, and is coordinated with national security and foreign policy interests. The framework for the policy is intended to be a comprehensive ecosystem-based approach and will take into account ecosystem research, economic activity, and user conflicts.

The push for a national ocean policy is not new. In 2000, Congress established the US Commission on Ocean Policy. In 2004, President Bush created the Committee on Ocean Policy. Obama’s memorandum instructs that the task force will be comprised of the same senior policy-level officials in the executive departments, agencies, and offices that were represented on Bush’s committee. The Obama administration Task Force, however, has been instructed to develop and draft policy recommendations within 180 days and develop a framework for costal and marine spatial planning. Presently, it is estimated that 140 different laws and 20 different agencies oversee ocean policy.


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