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c~,l" INTRODUCTION __ 1 Dine oceans are integral to the economy, environment, and security of the United States. It is thus no surprise that the federal government addresses a variety of coastal and oceanic issues on a daily basis. A 1998 report from the National Research Council's Ocean Studies Board, Opportunities in Ocean Sciences: Challenges on the Horizon, highlighted three critical research areas that "present great opportunities for advances in the ocean sciences and will lead to concrete improvements for human life on this planet." The topics identified were under- standing coastal ocean processes, sustaining marine ecosystems, and predicting climate variations. Although support for the research enterprise contin- ues to be critical, this document provides a different emphasis. It does not focus on research, but rather calls attention to two significant ocean issues - nutrient pollution and sustainable fisheries that are likely to require high-level attention and policy decisions during the coming four years. Both of these issues have been addressed in some detail by in- depth reports from the Ocean Studies Board (listed under "Further Readings. Needless to say, these are not the only important ocean issues, but they are sure to demand attention from policy makers in the near future. NUTRIENT POLLUTION OF COASTAL WATERS THE PROBLEM Protection of the nation's coastal areas—where a variety of commercial, subsistence, residential, and recreational activities come together- has been a priority for decades. Over the past 40 years, environ- mental laws have greatly reduced harmful discharges into coastal waters of the United States. This effort has focused largely on reducing industrial effluents containing toxic substances and controlling municipal wastewater. However, no comparable effort has been made to control the flows of nitrogen and phosphorus . ~ . entering waterways trom numerous non-po~nt sources, such as farm fields, livestock pens, urban runoff, or air pollution. As a result, inputs of non-point pollutants, particularly nitrogen, have increased dra- matically. As explained in a recent National Research Council report, Clean Coastal Waters: Understarldingo~nd Reducing the Elects of Nutrient Pollution, non-point pol- lution from nitrogen and phosphorus (also referred to as "nutrient pollution") now represents the largest pollution problem facing U.S. coastal waters.
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Nutrient pollution is the common thread that links an array of problems along the nation's coastlines, including eutrophication, harmful algal blooms, "dead zones," fish kills, loss of seagrass and kelp beds, some shellfish poisonings, coral reef destruc- tion, and marine mammal and seabird deaths. The damage from nutrient pollution goes well beyond unappealing, murky water bodies it also threatens the suitability of water for human contact and con- sumption and impairs the production of useful forms of aquatic life. Nutrient pollution degrades the entire marine food web that fosters biological diver- sity and supports commercially valuable fish and shellfish. According to a 1999 assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the No`tior~al Est~arir~e Entropy icartion Assessment: FINDING SOLUTIONS- Reducing excess nutrient delivery to coastal waters will require individual, societal, and political will. Clear Coastal Waters recommends that, as a minimum goal, the United States should begin to reverse the effects of nutrient pollution in the most highly degraded coastal systems by 2010, and take action to assure that currently healthy coastal areas do not develop symptoms of nutrient pollution. In some coastal systems, improved nitrogen removal during treatment of human sewage may be sufficient to reverse the detrimental effects of nutrient pollution. In most coastal systems, however, the solutions will be 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 Year Effects of N?~trier~t Enrichment ir' the Nation' s Estuaries, more than 60 percent of the coastal rivers and bays along the shores of the continental U.S. are moder- ately to severely degraded by nutrient pollution. more complex, involving possible controls on nitrogen compounds emitted during fossil fuel combustion, attention to urban runoff, incentives to reduce over- fertilization of agricultural fields, and better manage- ment of animal wastes from livestock operations. Local and state efforts will be key in many instances. Steps should be taken to provide local and state decision-makers with the tools needed to make real progress in reducing nutrient pollution. One of these tools is information. Sound management depends on accurate data to understand what the major sources of nutrients are, and to judge whether cleanup strategies are working. Federal agencies can play a useful role in developing a consistent nation- wide program for monitoring nutrient pollution in coastal settings. Because a significant component of the problem involves watersheds under multiple jurisdictions, addressing these areas may require changes in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, or the Coastal Zone Management Act. Nutrient pol- lution is a nationwide problem affecting water and air across state boundaries and any solution will require federal assistance and leadership.
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SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES MANAGEMENT THE PROElLEIVI Marine fisheries in the U.S. constitute a multi-billion dollar industry. They provide a significant source of jobs, protein for human consumption, and recre- ational opportunities. Fishing is also a traditional and valued way of life in many communities. As fisheries have grown, however, a number of econom- ic and environmental problems have arisen. Many fish stocks are overexploited and unable to support catches at a high and sustainable level. This has resulted in poor economic performance in many fisheries, including unemployment and small busi- ness failure in many coastal communities. The often significant capture of untargeted organisms (referred to as "bycatch") illustrates the inherent difficulties in controlling exactly what is caught. Fisheries pro- ductivity is diminished and valuable fish products can go to waste. Bycatch of marine mammals, birds, and reptiles can also lead to conflicts between fish- eries and species conservation goals. Finally, there is a growing recognition that we need to consider the effects of fishing practices on ocean habitats and marine ecosystems, including coastal habitats, coral reefs, and the seafloor. The troubling situation in U.S. and worldwide fisheries, along with suggestions for improvement, are thoroughly discussed in the 1999 OSB report, Sastair~ir~gMarir~e Fisheries. For any given fishery, not all of these conditions apply, but the problems are widespread over a num- ber of species and regions and stem from a variety of underlying causes. Incomplete understanding of fish populations and limited survey data make it difficult for managers to determine sustainable catch levels. Many problems arise because of over- . . · ~ TO · - capac1ty in the industry. Existing management sys- tems have had great difficulty establishing meth- ods for allocating fisheries resources fairly among competing user groups. Management systems that might increase incentives for conservation and rebuilding fisheries resources, such as those that establish some form of individual or community "property rights," have not been widely imple- mented. Finally, a lack of funding has led to insuf- ficient data collection and limited monitoring and enforcement of existing regulations. Landings of N.E. Groundfish and Flounder (x 1,000 I) 800 - 600 - 400 - 200 - 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 Year F:INDING SOLUTIONS Recommendations for addressing these problems can be found in a number of the reports listed at the end of this document. Allocating fisheries resources among different communities, groups, and individuals has been extremely difficult under our current system. One major topic that faces policy makers is the cur- rent legislative prohibition on individual fishing quo- tas (IFQs), a system that has been proposed as one way to eliminate the "race for fish" and create incentives to rebuild depleted stocks and conserve healthy ones. A 1999 OSB report, Sharing the Fisl: Toward a National Policy on Individual Fish id Quotas, concluded that, with careful planning, IFQs can serve as a useful tool for regional management
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councils to consider on a fishery by fishery basis. A review of the appropriateness of this option will be required of the next administration. Other changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act should also be considered in the search for solutions to the current problems. Although there is some room within the existing legal framework for the National Marine Fisheries Service and the regional councils to address these problems, more profound changes in our institutional structures may help. The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs), where fishing and other human activities are substantially limited, provides another promis- ing approach for enhancing fisheries. Although promotion of marine protected areas was the subject of a recent Presidential Executive Order, this approach remains controversial. The potential benefits of creating such protected areas are dis- cussed at length in the just-released OSB report Marine Protected Areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean CONCLUSION The two broad ocean issues described above nutrient pollution and sustainable fisheries - will undoubtedly be the subjects of vigorous policy debates over the next four years. Decision makers within the White House, Congress, and the federal agencies would do well to recognize these problems, learn more about them, and formulate plans for actively addressing them before they get worse. An improved understanding of natural processes will certainly play a role in helping the nation cope with these problems, and relevant research should be actively pursued. However, it is interesting to note two other themes common to both issues: 1. the need to coordinate multiple decision mak- Ecosystems, along with recommendations for facili- . . . . tatting their Implementation. Finally, policy makers will need to wrestle with the issue of funding for fisheries management. As explained in Improving the Collection, Mo~r~agemerlt, arid Use of Marine Fisheries Data, sound management relies on the kind of detailed information gained from adequate monitoring, data collection, and research, but these are all costly endeavors. ing bodies at many levels of government and 2. a requirement for more and better informa- tion to support sound management decisions. Management of both nutrients and fisheries are characterized by complex and overlapping geo- graphic and congressional jurisdictions. These com- peting authorities can hinder effective action. In many instances, solutions have been limited more by the decision-making process than by lack of basic understanding. The newly mandated Commission on Ocean Policy will be examining questions of coastal and ocean management in the United States, and the National Research Council looks forward to working with that body when it is established.
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All management decisions depend on the availabili- ty of adequate, reliable information to design sound policies, assess their performance, and fine tune them to maximize results. In the areas of fisheries and coastal protection, data are collected by many entities, including private individuals. scientists. O r 1 1 1 r 1 1 ano ioeai, state, tecterai, and international bodies. In order to maximize the utility of all this informa- tion, there is a growing need to develop more un~- form data collection protocols so that information can be made widely accessible and be aggregated to achieve a more complete picture. In some areas, however, the needed information is simolY not 1 · 1 1 . 1 TO . ---I -a being eoi~eete0. ~eeause sustained, high-quality . . . . . ,~ monitoring requires an ongoing commitment ot funds and human resources, an appropriate observ- ing system should be carefully designed to maxi- . . maze cost-effectiveness. A range of scientific and political opinion exists about how to deal with the problems described in this document. Many of the specifics are addressed in detail in the reports listed below. Whatever course is followed, responsible, coordinated deei- sions, informed by objective, sound knowledge. will , , ala ~ ~ 1 r OCR for page 6
THE NATIONAL RESF^RCH COUNCIL was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technolo- gy with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal gov- ernment. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the govern- ment, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is admin- istered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. THE OCF^N STUDIES BOARD is a unit of the National Research Council created to advise the federal government on issues of ocean science, engineering, and policy. In addition to exercising leadership within the ocean community, the Board undertakes studies at the request of federal agencies, Congress, or other sponsors, or upon its own initiative. The Board explores the science, policies, and infrastructure needed to understand, use, and protect coastal and marine environments and resources. In recent years, the Board has conducted studies in the following areas: · the status of marine and coastal environments; · the ocean's role in the global climate system; · technology and infrastructure needs; · ocean-related aspects of national security; · fisheries science, management, and policy; · living and non-living marine resources; · reviews of specific agency programs; · ocean education; and · the future of the field in the United States and abroad. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: OCEAN STuDiEs BOARD (HA-470) THE NAT~oNA~ ACADEMIES 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418 202-334-27 14 http://www. nas. edu/osb Photos courtesy of the National Oceanic arid Atmospheric Administration.
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