The Joint Ocean Commission released its 2006 oceans report card today, accompanied by a letter to President Bush urging more progress, backed up by more funding, to protect oceans and the fish in them.
How did we do? Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be bringing this one back to show my dad.
Our nation’s lackluster showing ranges from A-minus and B-plus, for talk-the-talk items like reforming ocean governance, to a sorry D-plus on walk-the-walk issues such as research and education, to a solid F at the root of it all, new funding.
On the brighter side, we’re doing better than last year in most cases: International leadership jumped to a D-minus from an F. Fisheries management reform climbed out of mediocrity (C-plus last year) to reach a sunny B-plus.
To his credit, President Bush seems to have some sort of soft spot for the oceans (at least the non-CO2 part of them). He created the world’s largest protected area last year, in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, and recent budget requests have pressed for considerably more funding for ocean science, two points the commission praised. Another point that made the cover sheet: the nation must recognize the importance of the oceans to global climate and climate change.
But it’s not a warm and fuzzy document. It’s sober and specific, stating that progress “has been uneven,” “modest,” and remains “jeopardized by a lack of funding.”
And they’re not interested in simply carping about problems. Attached to the report card are 12 pages of specific analysis and recommendations for making progress this year. The key points are summarized on the 1-page report card, available here as a PDF. The upshot of the document: We know what we should do, so why don’t we do it? I think it’s a model of condensed, usable facts.
Incidentally, the Joint Ocean Commission isn’t some fleeced-out group of environmentalists with an officious but made-up name. It’s the combined efforts of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, led by Admiral James Watkins, and the Pew Oceans Commission, headed by Leon Panetta. They’ve been issuing joint findings since 2004, when they realized they were independently doing similar work and coming to remarkably similar conclusions.