Conclusions and Recommendations
The governance and management of our coastal waters are inefficient and wasteful of both natural and economic resources. The existing system is characterized by a confusing array of laws, regulations, and practices at the federal, state, and local levels, and agencies that implement and enforce existing systems operate with mandates that often conflict with each other. No mechanism exists for establishing a common vision and a common set of objectives.
Government agencies operate in an arena characterized by unresolved conflicts among values and economic expectations, which require difficult choices among competing needs and interests and raise substantial questions of equity both with regard to present interests and the interests and rights of future generations. These conflicts impose a number of costs on advancing the national interest, both direct and indirect, such as lost opportunities and economic costs. The environmental costs of some conflicts are not always readily apparent. For example, the cumulative impacts of development can result in substantial alteration of a habitat that may only be revealed long after the development has ended.
Resolving conflicts necessarily involves many difficult decisions by public agencies about the appropriate balance between using resources to satisfy immediate economic needs and preserving resources for future needs. Under the present system, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, often involving costly and lengthy processes. No coherent system to protect the overall national interest is available to guide decision-makers.
Establishing basic principles and effective processes for the governance of the ocean and coastal areas is a prerequisite both to economic investment and to
sound environmental stewardship and would make a more reasonable, less adversarial approach to resolving conflicts possible. The general elements of a framework improved for governance and management envisioned in this report include the following:
Goals must be clearly stated, especially when different entities must be brought together in a cooperative effort.
The geographic (or ecological) area to be managed needs to be carefully delineated.
Mechanisms for involving all relevant stakeholders in the governance process need to be designed.
In most situations, it is appropriate for the process to be initiated as a state-federal joint effort.
Systems should foster innovative responses to management and resource utilization.
Processes should be established for incorporating scientific information into all aspects of decision-making.
Success should be measured by monitoring and evaluation.
A fully developed marine governance and management system that meets all of the objectives and incorporates all of the elements discussed in this report must evolve over time and in response to actual experience. However, some measures can be taken now.
The following recommendations are intended to bring the strengths inherent in the federalist approach, which is well developed in the management of public lands, to the marine governance system. In the federalist system, states and local governments are granted equal partnership with the federal government as appropriate.
Conclusion 1. The lack of coordination in the marine governance system diminishes the effectiveness of agencies at all levels and results in the loss of economic and ecological opportunities.
Recommendation 1. A National Marine Council should be established to define national objectives in the marine environment and to coordinate the activities of federal agencies, state agencies, and interested parties in the private sector.
Conclusion 2. The governance and management of ocean uses and resources are poorly coordinated at the regional level and often fail to involve nongovernmental parties in decision making.
Recommendation 2. Regional councils authorized by the National Marine Council should be created where there are serious conflicts or high resource values and existing programs are not available or are not effective. Regional councils can provide technical assistance on marine management issues, facilitate the use of scientific and monitoring information, develop alternative processes for resolving disputes, facilitate participation by local interests in governance decisions, and pursue contractual arrangements with stakeholders and other participants to achieve management goals.
Conclusion 2. Although many federal and state programs exist, no integrated, coherent overall structure for marine governance and management has been established.
Recommendation 3. Federal officials, working with their state counterparts, should attempt to maximize existing programs, especially where there are urgent problems and existing programs could be reconfigured relatively easily to provide some, or all, of the benefits associated with regional councils.
Conclusion 4. A wide range of management tools have been adopted for land management but have not been used much in the marine environment.
Recommendation 4. Management tools should be explored and adapted as needed to improve marine governance, both by the proposed regional marine councils and by existing marine management programs. Management tools include zoning, enhanced systems of liability or compensation for economic and environmental damage, user charges and marketable use rights, and negotiating the mitigation of activities that are potentially harmful to other resource users and values.
Conclusion 5. The marine environment presents special difficulties for devising and implementing governance processes because of the tradition of open access that has characterized marine resources and space.
Recommendation 5. In appropriate situations, limiting access by creating alternative rights, such as community access rights, controlled access, or individual use rights, should be considered.
Conclusion 6. Many goods and services provided by the marine environment are considered to be of no economic value because they are not traded in an economic market. Nevertheless, the value of these services may greatly exceed their commercial value.
Recommendation 6. Management agencies should make every effort to estimate the value of nonmarketable marine services, such as recreation and ecosystem stability, and should reflect those values in management decisions and decision making.
Conclusion 7. Many activities that degrade marine resources and areas take place out of sight or over extended periods of time and are, therefore, not easy to document.
Recommendation 7. The federal government should ensure compliance with legal requirements by improving surveillance, strengthening sanctions, and involving all elements of the marine community in more transparent rule-making and enforcement in marine areas.
Conclusion 8. Marine governance has been hampered by inadequate financial resources.
Recommendation 8. A wide range of financing mechanisms that are now used on land should be considered for the marine environment. These include performance bonds, use or resource-based taxes, grants and loans, special assessment districts, recovery of costs for government services, tax-increment financing.
Conclusion 9. The effectiveness of existing programs could be enhanced by a broader range of management tools for dealing with problems and conflicts.
Recommendation 9. Existing federal and state coastal and marine programs should examine and, where appropriate, adopt new governance mechanisms and management tools that foster coordination and cooperation.
Although the implementation of the system of marine area governance and management proposed in this report would involve creating new structures and processes, a number of the measures suggested in this report can be taken immediately by the federal and state agencies responsible for marine and coastal activities and areas. The most important components of the system discussed in the preceding pages are coordination, information, and participation. These principles can be integrated into existing or new management or governance frameworks and would yield immediate, substantial benefits to the nation.