To The President:
In June of last year, you and Vice President Gore presided over the National Ocean Conference in Monterey, which drew together for the first time the full array of ocean interestsfrom government to industry, science to conservation. Among the many initiatives you and the Vice President launched at that historic gathering were new steps to restore coastal reefs, rebuild marine fisheries, preserve freedom of the seas, provide public access to military data and technology, enhance the competitiveness of America's ports, and protect our national marine sanctuaries from oil drilling.
In your address to the Conference, you also directed your Cabinet to report back to you with additional recommendations for a coordinated, disciplined, long-term federal ocean policy. Today, on behalf of the Cabinet and independent agencies with responsibility for ocean affairs, we are pleased to submit this report with our recommendations for a comprehensive policy to guide federal efforts into the 21st century.
The national dialogue begun in Monterey reflects the diverse, sometimes competing values inherent in our oceans. The seas are not only a source of economic benefit and a major avenue of world trade, but they are also a vital component of our national defense, a natural treasure to be preserved, and a fascinating frontier with secrets yet to be discovered. Our recommendations build on the broad consensus among Conference participants on the vital importance of the oceans to our nation 's futureour economy, our security, our health and well-beingand the challenges we face in ensuring that all the oceans' many resources are protected and sustained.
There is growing awareness among Americans of the many ways the oceans influence our daily lives. Farmers in the nation 's heartland depend on weather systems driven by the interaction of the oceans and atmosphere to nourish their crops. Citizens who have never seen an ocean may benefit from energy and food from the waters off our coasts. Marine organisms provide the cure for many diseases and the promise of many more cures. Ocean-going vessels carry the bulk of our world trade, linking us to the global marketplace and keeping our economy strong. Our naval forces, which preserve the international freedoms of navigation so crucial to maritime commerce and global stability, use ocean data daily in their worldwide operations. A strong national security is essential to our nation 's ocean policy.
At the same time, we have come to understand that the "boundless" oceans have limits. They cannot provide unlimited fish to feed the growing populations of the world, nor can they absorb unlimited wastes from human activities. We also are beginning to realize the importance of preserving the oceans 'complex and delicate balances. Non-native species discharged from ships 'ballast tanks into U. S. waters can irrevocably alter an ecosystem. oxic algal blooms are degrading many coastal areas; knowing how they form will be key to preventing future outbreaks. And unchecked coastal development risks destroying ocean habitats that sustain economic activity and the natural splendor that for ages has drawn us to the sea.
One thing is clear: if we truly
are to protect our oceansand the many benefits they provide
we first must better understand them. We only recently
discovered whole colonies of previously unknown types of life
surviving at great ocean depths, drawing their life energynot
from the sun like other known life formsbut from chemicals
under the seafloor. We have discovered that life exists in every
drop of sea water, and we have refined our understanding of the
way the oceans drive climatic patterns like El Niño, which
shape the weather across the globe. Yet, despite such advances,
the seas remain largely unexplored. More ocean data and
In developing the recommendations contained in this report, we have been guided by the following core principles:
SUSTAINING THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF THE OCEANSFuture generations deserve to inherit healthy, bountiful oceans.
STRENGTHENING GLOBAL SECURITYFreedom of the seas is integral to the strength and security of our nation.
PROTECTING MARINE RESOURCESStrong protection of our ocean and coastal environment, using a precautionary approach and sound management, is no longer a choice, but a necessity.
DISCOVERING THE OCEANSExploring and understanding the oceans is critical to our well-being and survival.
In the pages that follow, we offer specific recommendations in twenty-five subject areas. For example:
To sustain economic benefits, we recommend working with coastal communities on plans for sustainable development; creating new incentives to reduce overfishing and develop guidelines for environmentally sound aquaculture; and increasing support for identifying and harvesting marine resources with pharmaceutical benefits.
To strengthen global security, we recommend working with the U. S. Senate to ensure early ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention; improving our ability to detect and deter maritime threats before they reach our shores; expanding efforts to maintain and exercise traditional freedoms of navigation and overflight around the world; and extending to 24 nautical miles the "contiguous zone "for enhanced federal law enforcement purposes.
To protect marine resources, we recommend coordinating federal efforts with state and local "smart growth "initiatives in the coastal zone; taking new steps to reduce urban and agricultural runoff; strengthening efforts to protect and restore essential fish habitat; and exploring the concept of marine wilderness areas.
To better understand and use the oceans, we recommend expanding coastal, open-ocean, and seafloor observations; integrating satellite, buoy, and other observing networks; advancing basic and applied research to increase our knowledge of ocean and coastal areas; supporting exploration in underwater areas; and establishing a coordinated effort to promote ocean science education.
To ensure a coordinated, focused, federal effort to implement this report, we recommend establishment of a high-level task force composed of undersecretaries of relevant agencies and departments to be chaired by the Deputy National Security Advisor and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.
We believe this report makes an important contribution to the national dialogue begun last year in Monterey. We look forward to working with you in developing and implementing a comprehensive federal policy to explore, protect, and sustain our oceans in the new millennium.
William M. Daley