For me the concept of a National Ocean Policy dates back to the mid 1980s and Charles H. W. Foster’s book Experiments in Bioregionalism. In Massachusetts, Foster understood, as did Charles Eliot before him, that natural resource management had to occur in transboundary settings. Think ecosystem as defined by natural boarders. The problem was managers were mandated to think and operate only within man-made boxes of municipalities, counties, states and nations.
The necessity of a top-down National Ocean Policy is that it instructs managers to work in collaboration across managerial boundaries. The wonder of the National Ocean Policy was for leadership of the Interior (the National Park Service), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Coast Guard and the Navy to announce that they would work together across institutional boundaries, share resources, reduce redundancies, and develop more robust solutions for responsible ocean stewardship.
Implementation of the National Ocean Policy is now being challenged simply because the call for working across institutional boundaries came from the President by Executive Order. It was not requested by Congress. While a most appropriate action for the Commander in Chief, the President belongs to one political party. Today the other political party can not abide by the president’s order. Their complaint is not based on the merits, other than more government is bad. Based solely on party dogma, they campaign to gut funding for the National Ocean Policy and thwart its implementation.
The irony is that funds requested for the National Ocean Council are not for government agencies, not to make big government bigger. Funds are required to host listening sessions across the nation. It is wrong to deny funding for the processes that inform government from the bottom-up. For less command-and-control Washington and for more locally- informed government fund the National Ocean Council.
Citizens must rally to right wrong and demand that Washington enable the National Ocean Council the ability to listen locally and be informed regionally. Attempts to shut down local dialogues and regional discourses in the service of responsible ocean stewardship are un-American. We demand implementation of the National Ocean Policy. The National Ocean Policy will foster responsible ocean stewardship for the benefit of the ocean, our coasts and beaches, marine wildlife, and ultimately us all. Let’s get it together, release the silos of government, and commence effective bioregional management.