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Today, the Obama Administration released the Final Recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force, which would establish a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes (National Policy) and create a National Ocean Council (NOC) to strengthen ocean governance and coordination. The Final Recommendations prioritize actions for the NOC to pursue, and call for a flexible framework for coastal and marine spatial planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes.

The NOC would coordinate across the Federal Government to implement the National Policy. The Final Recommendations also call for the establishment of a Governance Coordinating Committee to formally engage with state, tribal, and local authorities. The Final Recommendations are expected to be adopted into an Executive Order by President Obama.

In June 2009, President Obama created the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and charged it with developing recommendations to enhance national stewardship of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes and promote the long term conservation and use of these resources. The Task Force was led by CEQ and included 24 senior-level policy officials from across the Federal Government. The Task Force released an Interim Report in September 2009 and an Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning in December 2009. Each of these reports was made available online for public comment. The Task Force received and reviewed close to 5,000 written comments from Congress, stakeholders, and the public before finalizing its recommendations. The Task Force’s Final Recommendations combine and update the proposals contained in the two earlier reports. The Center provided input to the Task Force at the CEQ Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The National Policy includes a set of guiding principles for management decisions and actions toward stewardship that ensures that the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes are healthy and resilient, safe and productive, and understood and treasured so as to promote the well-being, prosperity, and security of present and future generations. It prioritizes actions, including ecosystem-based management, regional ecosystem protection and restoration, and strengthened and integrated observing systems, that seek to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. These strategies and objectives provide a bridge between the National Policy and action on the ground.

The National Policy identifies coastal and marine spatial planning as a priority. Marine spatial planning offers a comprehensive, integrated approach to planning and managing uses and activities over the long term. Under the National Policy, coastal and marine spatial planning would be regional in scope, developed cooperatively among Federal, state, tribal, and local authorities, and include substantial stakeholder, scientific, and public input.

The coastal and marine spatial planning framework:

• Establishes a new regional approach to how we use and protect the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes to decrease user conflicts, improve planning and regulatory efficiencies and decrease costs and delays, and preserve critical ecosystem services.

• Creates a comprehensive alternative to sector-by-sector and statute-by-statute decision-making.

• Establishes regional planning bodies, bringing Federal, state, and tribal partners together in an unprecedented manner to jointly plan for the future of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.

• Ensures science-based information is at the heart of decision-making.

• Emphasizes stakeholder and public participation. The National Ocean Council would plan to hold its first meeting later this summer to begin the immediate work of implementing the National Policy.

The full text of the National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes