Healthy Ocean Policy In The USA


While this site is primarily about Canada’s oceans and keeping them healthy, it is interesting to note that most developed countries have their own policies regarding the health of their coastal and interior bodies of water.

The USA has the Healthy Ocean Policy (HOP). It was signed by President Obama in 2009. This policy was enacted for many reasons. While there was always a policy in place, the US really needed a new one that provided a better means to approach the coastal and ocean management issues that we face now and in the future.

What most people don’t realize is how easily we can disrupt the natural ecosystems of our coasts. Keeping in mind how many people the world over rely on what the ocean provides, it is extremely important that we, as a global nation, control what happens to our waters.

Some problems we face are ocean acidification, climate change that disrupts the shellfish and fish populations, nutrient pollution from farm and street runoff (for example the salts that accumulate and end up in the Great Lakes) and a host of others.

The steps the US has taken can be boiled down to 3 events. The first was Coordination. What Obama did was establish a stewardship for the oceans and waters. Then created an Interagency Task Force to come up with recommendations to implement.

Second, they created the nine National Priority Objectives. They are best explained by a quote from their website. “These objectives are the substantive ways the federal government will implement the National Ocean Policy through actions they take in fulfilling existing responsibilities to protect and manage the oceans, our coasts and Great Lakes.”

Finally, the third step is simply planning. We can say “simply” but obviously it is anything but! Large marine ecosystem boundaries were defined on a map to help regions focus on specific issues directly related to their location and other unique events.

There is a global coalition of countries that form laws and policies in the hopes that we, as a planet, can stop some of the harm we do. That coalition is beyond the scope of this article, and will be introduced in a future article.