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Ocean policies haven't kept up with science

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Scientific knowledge about the oceans has increased tremendously in the last quarter century but U.S. policy for managing its territorial waters has lagged far behind the science, experts say, leading to resource depletion, pollution, habitat destruction and political polarization.

Recommendations by the Pew Oceans Commission released today (June 4) are the first step toward addressing the disparity between growing scientific knowledge and outdated national policies and practices, says Jane Lubchenco, an Oregon State University professor and one of the commission's lead scientists.

"What we know is not reflected in what we do," Lubchenco said. "We are facing historic reductions in what once was thought to be an endless bounty. It doesn't have to be that way. With more responsible, science-based stewardship, we can have sustainable, healthy and resilient ecosystems. But the framework for a coherent management plan has been missing."

One of the recommendations of the Pew Commission is the establishment of Regional Ecosystem Management Councils that would report to a new federal agency. Key components of the proposal call for regional decision-making and a management plan based on ecosystems, not individual species or narrow political jurisdictions.

Lubchenco said one of the obstacles to a sound ocean policy has been a piecemeal regulatory approach that reacts to crises instead of addressing management in a cohesive and precautionary manner.

"Recent scientific findings should be giving us a wakeup call," she said.

A scientific study reported last month in Nature determined that most of the oceans' large predator fish - including tuna, sharks, and other species - have been depleted by some 90 percent from their historic highs. Lubchenco points to other phenomena including increases in algal blooms, the proliferation of invasive species and coral bleaching events as oceanic equivalents
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Contact: Jane Lubchenco
lubchenco@oregonstate.edu
541-737-5337
Oregon State University
4-Jun-2003


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