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The Future of U.S. Ocean Policy
Choices for the New Century
By Biliana Cicin-Sain, Robert W. Knecht
ISLAND PRESSCopyright © 2000 Island Press
All rights reserved.
A Time For Reassessment of U.S. Ocean Policy
The United States has one of the largest and probably the richest 200-mile ocean zone (formally, the Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ]) of any nation in the world. This "wet America"—about equal in size to the terrestrial United States (see Figure 1.1)—is home to bountiful living and nonliving ocean resources: fisheries, marine mammals, minerals, and other energy resources. It is an area greatly valued by the American people, both for its many uses and for the awe it evokes. Rich fisheries lie off New England, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska, and in the Gulf of Mexico; large offshore oil and gas deposits exist in the Gulf of Mexico and off California and Alaska; stunningly beautiful beaches line virtually all U.S. shores. And 95 percent of the trade that keeps the nation prosperous is carried on those oceans through ports such as New York-New Jersey, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Houston, and New Orleans. Marine transportation, commercial and recreational fishing, development of offshore oil and gas, swimming and beaching, protecting and viewing marine mammals, military operations, waste disposal, aesthetic enjoyment—these are among the many values that Americans seek to obtain from their ocean.
Why This Book?
It has been thirty-three years since Congress enacted legislation that focused unprecedented attention on the nation's coasts and oceans and led to the establishment of both a vice president—led Marine Sciences Council and the "blue ribbon" Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources. The so-called Stratton Commission examined the U.S. stake in its oceans and coasts in a comprehensive manner, as had never been done before, and in its seminal 1969 report, Our Nation and the Sea, provided a blueprint for U.S. action to conserve and manage the bountiful resources and values found there.
No similar comprehensive assessment of U.S. ocean and coastal policy has since been done, and many people now recognize that it is sorely needed to assess the many changes that have taken place since the late 1960s as well as to consider possible future trends and challenges.
The ocean situation in the United States has changed dramatically since the 1969 Stratton report (Knecht, Cicin-Sain, and Foster 1998). The Stratton Commission's good work led directly to the establishment of the nation's ocean agency—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and to the enactment of innovative coastal zone management legislation. The decade immediately following the Stratton Commission's report saw a rise in environmental consciousness, the emergence of energy use and supply as a major issue, and many new ocean and coastal programs enacted into law—programs dealing with such ocean issues as marine mammals, ports and harbors, water quality, marine sanctuaries, ocean dumping, fisheries, and offshore oil and gas. The subsequent period also saw significant growth in populations in coastal areas, and an attendant rise in conflicts among various users of coastal resources and space. The offshore jurisdiction of the United States was transformed significantly during this time: In 1983, the nation asserted jurisdiction over the 200-mile EEZ, and in 1988 it declared a territorial sea of 12 miles offshore, following the international norms established by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. A substantial increase in the interest and capacity of the coastal states and territories to deal with coastal and, increasingly, ocean issues took place during this time, as did the capacity of the educational system in the marine natural sciences and social sciences.
The latter half of the thirty-year period since the Stratton Commission has seen a corresponding burst of activity at the global level. Growing concern, especially in scientific circles, focused on two emerging problems: (1) the prospect that human activities were beginning to change the world's climate and dangerously accelerate the loss of species and biological diversity, and (2) the realization that many societies were living unsustainably and that problems of environment and development were inextricably linked. Concern about these problems led to another seminal event: the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. As did the activist decade of the 1970s in the United States, the decade of the 1990s has seen the signing of international agreements on climate change and on biodiversity, a comprehensive Law of the Sea Convention finally enter into force, and the development of substantial international programs that deal with integrated coastal management, land-based sources of marine pollution, and the protection and sustainable use of coral reefs. Nations around the world are now experimenting with methods of integrating and harmonizing the multiple uses of their oceans and coasts, and are attempting to operationalize the vision espoused by the oceans chapter of Agenda 21—that the governance of ocean and coastal areas must be "integrated in content and precautionary and anticipatory in ambit." Under Agenda 21, nations cannot solely rely on traditional approaches that govern only one resource or use at a time, but must also consider the effects of one resource or use on other resources, uses, and the environment (UNCED 1992).
The past fifteen years have also seen a fundamental transformation of the international relations regime with important implications for oceans—the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, economic globalization, the growth of regional economic blocs, and the emergence of the World Trade Organization and of trade and environmental conflicts.
Major Crosscutting Issues Need Addressing in a U.S. Ocean Policy Reassessment
All of these changes, domestic and international, pose both problems and opportunities for the United States and call for a major reassessment of U.S. ocean policy. In particular, there is the need for assessment of crosscutting problems, problems that relate to more than one sector of ocean policy. Specific areas of ocean policy, such as fisheries, have been assessed periodically, but crosscutting issues have typically not been examined since the Stratton Commission report. The crosscutting problems are important and denote deficiencies in the underlying ocean governance regime, deficiencies that must be addressed if the United States is to achieve greater benefits from its offshore zones. Symptoms of such crosscutting problems include the following:
* The United States lacks a strategy for sustainable development of its offshore areas. Even though it declared an EEZ and expanded its territorial sea, it has done little to provide guidance for the governance of these vast ocean areas.
* Conflicts exist among users, among agencies, and between different levels of government over the use of ocean resources and space. Such conflicts have often gone unresolved, incurring significant costs.
* The U.S. approach to ocean governance has largely been through enactment of single-purpose ocean laws, which often neglect not only the effects of one resource or use on other resources or uses and on the environment, but also the cumulative impacts.
* In some cases (such as in offshore oil and gas policy), U.S. policy has oscillated between unmitigated development thrusts and the adoption of wholly conservationist approaches (such as the imposition of moratoria on new development), which prevents the attainment of sustainable development of its ocean.
* Many marine industries in this country are not faring well, in contrast to those in other countries. Examples include loss of shipping to other nations, declines in the fishing industry and the offshore oil and gas industry, and trade deficits in fishery products.
* The growth potential of newer marine and coastal economic activities, such as marine aquaculture and biotechnology, is hampered by the absence of appropriate management frameworks to properly encourage and guide development.
* Although many federal programs deal with the ocean, they tend to be fragmented and lack coherence. Few, if any, mechanisms exist for harmonizing and coordinating the actions of federal ocean agencies, in contrast to the situation in some other nations.
* There are significant problems in intergovernmental relations on ocean issues among federal, state, and local governments, with little real sharing of decision making and of revenues.
* Little attention has been paid to developing policy responses for longer-term issues, such as dealing with the effects of sea-level rise and increased storm frequency resulting from global climate change.
* There has been little nurturing of U.S. capacity for ocean governance—the joining of science and policy—bringing together the natural sciences that help us to understand physical and biological ocean processes; the marine social sciences, which lead to understanding of how humans both affect and are affected by ocean processes and activities; and the managerial capacity that is spread out in many national and state ocean agencies.
* Although the first to enact (in the 1970s) a very elaborate body of law dealing with almost all aspects of the ocean environment, and a major leader in the 1970s in the formulation of an international constitution for the oceans (the Law of the Sea), the United States is no longer the international leader and pacesetter of ocean policy. It has, at times, been a reluctant participant in some of the major international fora dealing with oceans; whereas other national governments (e.g., Canada, Australia, Korea) have, in recent years, been expending more effort and resources in assessing their ocean and coastal interests and governmental structures and in crafting more integrated national ocean policies.
Our Perspective in Writing This Book
We have come to the writing of this book from the vantage point of more than twenty-five years of writing about, teaching, and participating in national ocean policy, mostly as policy watchers but at times as policy participants. Robert Knecht, in particular, participated directly in national ocean and coastal policy in the period 1972—1980 as the first director of the U.S. coastal management program, as director of new programs in ocean thermal energy conversion and deep seabed minerals, and as a U.S. participant in the Law of the Sea negotiations. Biliana Cicin-Sain served in the federal government as a policy analyst in 1977—1979, working especially on state-federal relations on fisheries issues. In the past two decades, we have served as consultants on ocean and coastal policy to federal agencies such as NOAA, to a number of state governments and ocean/coastal interest groups, to international entities such as the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (which is part of UNESCO), and the World Bank, and have been participants in the international ocean negotiations leading to and following the 1992 Earth Summit.
Our orientation in this book is rooted in political science and public administration. We are concerned with assessing how well the United States is governing its ocean space and resources and with what effects and consequences. In ocean policy, as in any other policy area, we are very aware of the close nexus that exists between "policy" and "politics"—that is, how a particular set of political forces and circumstances is responsible for creating particular policies, and how particular policies can, in turn, change the political dynamics of a particular issue, leading, eventually, to a subsequent change in policy. That is why, in this book, we examine in detail the political forces that were responsible for the enactment of the body of U.S. ocean and coastal law that exists today. If this body of law and policy is to be improved, those same political forces (or some variant of them) must be aligned in support of ocean policy reform.
Our studies of U.S. ocean policy over time have suggested an expression that encapsulates our view of the current policy status: "U.S. ocean policy today is less than the sum of its parts." That is, while the nation has made great strides in certain sectors of ocean policy (e.g., in the control of point sources of marine pollution, the protection of marine mammals, and the establishment of coastal management), overall, the separate parts of the policy don't fit well together. There are instances of conflicting, overlapping, or duplicative policies, and there is no vision of how the various parts may be harmonized, and of how overall guidance and principles may be developed to more effectively govern the offshore domain.
This syndrome of being "less than the sum of its parts" is rooted, in large part, in structural problems in the ocean governance regime, or in insufficient elaboration of the rights and obligations that various parties (federal, state governments, stakeholders) have in coastal and ocean areas. By "regime," we mean the institutional arrangements governing the use of a particular set of resources and/or areas that determine the expectations of the users and their rights and duties as well as the goals that the collective activities seek to achieve. Resource regimes and their behavior have been examined in detail by a number of authors, especially Oran Young (1982). The creation of separate, largely independent management regimes for various resources and uses that are rightfully part of a larger, interconnected system is bound to cause stresses and conflict.
As a result of the body of single-purpose ocean and coastal laws enacted in the 1970s, the ocean governance structure is generally based not on area but rather on the promotion, management, or control of specific ocean resources such as oil and gas or fisheries. The challenge that the nation faces in the twenty-first century is moving from this "first-generation" system of ocean governance—single-use and resource-based—to a "second generation" based on the notion of multiple-use management within designated ocean and coastal areas.
Our reassessment of U.S. ocean policy has benefited from the work of other ocean policy scholars, many of them involved in the Ocean Governance Study Group, who over the years have provided trenchant analyses of the state, in whole or in part, of U.S. ocean policy (e.g., Mangone 1988; Miles 1992; Juda 1996; Juda and Burroughs 1990; Van Dyke 1992; Scheiber 1998; Archer et al. 1994; Hershman 1996; Hershman et al. 1999; Wilder 1998), as well as from recent analyses conducted by the National Research Council (NRC 1997), federal ocean agencies during the 1998 Year of the Ocean (YOTO 1998), the Heinz Center (Heinz Center 1998), and through the National Dialogues carried out by NOAA and other partners (e.g., Knecht, Cicin-Sain, and Foster 1998; Cicin-Sain, Knecht, and Foster 1999) in 1998—1999. An added impetus for completing this work was provided by the congressional consideration, in 1998, of the Oceans Act, which would have created a high-level commission, similar to the Stratton Commission, to create an overall strategy for United States action. While the Oceans Act passed both houses of Congress, it did not become law because differences in the House and Senate versions could not be resolved in a timely fashion (Archer 1999). Nevertheless, consideration of the Oceans Act (which could become law in subsequent Congresses) has rekindled discussion and interest in national ocean policy reassessment among the major interest groups, academics, and the public.
The Intended Audience
This book is intended for all those interested in the oceans and coastal areas of the United States and how public policy is set with regard to their use and conservation. Staff of federal and state environmental and resource agencies with missions that include coasts and oceans will find the book directly relevant to their interests and their programs. Nongovernmental organizations and ocean and coastal user groups (commercial and recreational fishers, recreational boaters, beach-goers, environmental and conservation groups, etc.) will also find, we hope, that the information in the book relates to their work and how they go about it. Staffs and members of Congress or state legislative bodies especially interested in national ocean policy, either broadly or in particular sectors (offshore oil and gas, fisheries, marine mammals, marine protected areas, etc.), and others with roles in the policy formulation process should be assisted in their work by the information and history collected here. Finally, we believe that academics in the field of marine policy will want to consider this book as a possible teaching tool.
Excerpted from The Future of U.S. Ocean Policy by Biliana Cicin-Sain, Robert W. Knecht. Copyright © 2000 Island Press. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
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