Saturday, June 13, 2009

Obama calls for ocean protection

Environmentalists were delighted today by President Obama’s designation of this month as National Oceans Month and his pledge to set a comprehensive ocean-protection policy.

The oceans are getting crowded and polluted, Obama said. Sea levels are rising. Fish are depleted. Some species are endangered.

And there’s no clear national policy to sort out the best ways to make good use of ocean resources.

So he called for a task force of senior officials to recommend within 90 days a national oceans policy.

``This policy will incorporate ecosystem-based science and management and emphasize our public-stewardship responsibilities,’’ Obama said.

A White House memo spelled out creation of the task force, and a presidential proclamation designated June as National Oceans Month.

The action coincided with Capitol Hill Ocean Week, a conference of scientists, environmentalists and government leaders from around the country. This year the conference focused on how the oceans affect the economy.

``For Florida, it’s especially important because so many people live in coastal areas and oceans are important to things like tourism and fisheries,’’ said Amy Wright, director of biomedical research at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce.

The Florida Keys alone attract about 4 million tourists a year who spend $1.2 billion, said Billy Causey of Key West, regional director of the U.S. Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

``It’s critical to keep the Keys healthy to preserve these precious resources for the future,’’ Causey said. ``More and more people are paying attention to the economic significance of these areas.’’

Here’s Obama’s proclamation: …

Obama calls for ocean protection

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