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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

U.S. Commission on Oceans

Air Date: Week of June 6, 2003

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The federal government is working on its own oceans report as mandated by Congress. Host Steve Curwood talks with Commissioner Andy Rosenberg about similarities between the government report and other marine studies released this spring.

Transcript

CURWOOD: One person who is paying close attention to all these ocean studies is Andy Rosenberg. He is a member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy that is preparing its own report, due this fall. Its mandate from the president is to make recommendations for a “coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy.” Andy Rosenberg joins me now from KAZU in Pacific Grove, California.

Tell me, how do some of these Pew recommendations resonate with what the government’s Ocean Commission wants to do? For instance, what about establishing a federal oceans agency?

ROSENBERG: Well, we have talked about consolidation of some of the programs in federal agencies to try to actually put together what are often fragmented programs, and get not only federal agencies but also federal and state and local and tribal entities to work better together. Whether that means that you need to have an independent, separate oceans agency or whether you need to consolidate programs that are in an existing agency, I think, is still an open question for the U.S. Commission. We also have talked about a national ocean policy act in the same way that they are recommending. So again, we are covering similar ground and the input is very helpful.

CURWOOD: What about a national network of marine reserves?

ROSENBERG: The Pew Commission has focused quite intensely on marine reserves. And I actually work on marine reserves, as well, and feel that they are an extremely important part of the conservation puzzle, if you like, for the oceans.

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy has considered marine reserves; tried to carefully define what the role of marine reserves is in conservation policy; make sure that they are science-based, that they are continually monitored; and that we make sure that we know what the goal is for establishing a particular reserve.

From my own experience, particularly in New England, I know that marine reserves or closed areas. There is sort of a continuum from marine reserves to ocean zoning that can be extremely effective tools. In fact, they have been fundamental in trying to deal with the long-term New England fisheries crisis which is showing signs of recovery now.

CURWOOD: How much sense does it make to zone the oceans? What about that idea?

ROSENBERG: Well, it is a very difficult concept politically for many people to accept, that the oceans are not sort of free and the last remaining Wild West. But we have to move in that direction. It is just not possible to say that people can do whatever they like, wherever they like. And, of course, we already have some kinds of zoning. Certainly, oil and gas leasing on the U.S. continental shelf is, in a sense, zoned. Some of the fishing activities are partially zoned. But we need to have a much more careful zoning policy. And I think that that is the way that policy will move, but it will be a very tough and, I suspect, quite a long political battle.

CURWOOD: What about, though, the Pew Commission’s call for a change in federal policy so that the people who are responsible for figuring out how many fish can be sustainably harvested, wouldn’t be the same folks who figure out who gets to catch them, and how.

ROSENBERG: In the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, our draft recommendations, we have a similar structure that we are proposing where the scientific decisions about the conservation limits are – in other words, what is the realistic limit within which policy should be set – that that is a scientific decision, and the people who take that decision are scientists, as opposed to having it debated as a political exercise.

Whereas, what you do within those limits – in other words who gets to fish, how much, and what the actual structure is – as long as you are staying within the limits, that is much more of a political decision to be decided by the various stakeholder groups, including commercial, recreational fisherman as well as public interest groups, and academics, and environmental groups, and so on.

CURWOOD: What are some of the other recommendations the Commission will make, do you think?

ROSENBERG: Well, the Commission is certainly focusing on data collection and information available from the ocean, how we fit those things together in a comprehensive way so that policymakers, scientists and the public can really have a sense of what is going on in our ocean. We don’t have such a system now; we need to create one.

We have also focused quite heavily on education and research more broadly. How are we going to produce the scientists of the future, the policymakers of the future, the businesspeople of the future that understand what is going on in the oceans?

So we have a very strong focus on the educational system, the research system, all the way from kindergarten up through university and graduate education. And that is a critical piece of making sure that we move in the direction of a better ocean policy; of viewing the oceans as a place that we care for, as opposed to a place we use.

CURWOOD: Andy Rosenberg is a former deputy director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and is currently dean of the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture at the University of New Hampshire.

Thanks for taking this time with me today.

ROSENBERG: Thank you very much.

 

Links

U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy

 

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