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The Oceans Act: A Review of Federal Oceans Policy for the Long Term Protection and Management of the Marine Environment

Doug Obegi

Center for Marine Conservation, 580 Market St., Ste 550, San Francisco, CA 94104;


Thirty years have passed since the U.S. first underwent a comprehensive review of ocean policy. That review by the "Stratton Commission", which published their findings in the 1969 report Our Nation and the Sea, led to the creation of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Since then, the threats facing our oceans have increased tremendously, as technological improvements and population growth have demonstrated that our oceans are not unlimited sources of wealth and resources. On the other hand, many of the nation's foremost laws and regulations to protect the marine environment were passed during this period. Yet these laws have not sufficed to protect our oceans and their living inhabitants. From 1975 to 1999, the number of threatened or endangered marine species or stocks grew from 20 to 61, with another 42 candidates for listing; and in 1999 over one third of our marine fisheries are "overfished" (depleted) or "approaching an overfished condition." After 30 years, another assessment of our ocean management framework is in order. The Oceans Act (S. 959; H.R. 2425) has been introduced in both the 105th and 106th Congresses to review current ocean policy and recommend any changes to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of such a policy. This article reviews the need for this legislation, its historical significance, and the impact that it could have on U.S. ocean management.

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