Oceans Deserve Attention On Earth Day
Statement Of Dawn Martin, Executive Director, Oceana
Press Release Date: April 22, 2002
Concerning Oceans, Earth Day and the Bush Adminstration
Our oceans are at risk. And as a result, we all are at risk. The oceans are linked to our health, our economy and our everyday lives. Yet, the Bush administration continues to neglect this important global resource. Earth Day is a perfect opportunity for the Administration to finally take steps to protect the world’s food security and our circle of life.
An excellent example of Bush’s poor record on protecting oceans is the controversy surrounding Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Last Earth Day, in a Rose Garden ceremony, President Bush announced he would sign an international treaty to reduce the discharge of toxic chemicals often found in the ocean. These dangerous pollutants are found throughout our oceans and cause serious damage to human health and marine ecosystems. However, last week, the Administration announced it will omit a crucial part of the POPs treaty and backtrack on its commitment to create a way to add chemicals to the list of banned pollutants.
The President’s Commission on Ocean Policy, which met on Friday in Los Angeles, best indicates this Administration’s position on our oceans. None of the appointed commissioners represents conservation or fishing groups, and many of the commissioners represent resource extraction industries.
Meanwhile, as reported in the latest Science magazine, the North Atlantic’s food fish — such as cod and tuna — are disappearing at an alarming rate; at the turn of this century we have less than 20% of what our grandparents had at the turn of the last century. Last month the National Academy of Sciences raised alarms about the widespread destruction of ocean habitats, such as corals and seagrass beds, by heavy industrial fishing equipment. If these declines continue, it is only a matter of time before we have damaged the oceans irreparably and threatened global security with severe food shortages, leaving nothing for our grandchildren.
Despite these warnings from scientists, the Bush Administration has failed to enforce laws on the books to cut the massive waste of fish and other marine life, or to stop destruction of ocean habitat.
This week, in New England, the overfishing crisis is coming to a head, because the Administration has failed to take the steps needed to bring the valuable cod fishery – and New England’s fishing economy – back to life. At the same time, on the west coast, the Administration is facing a recent court order, this time to cut the waste of fish and other marine life in the Pacific groundfish fishery.
The Bush Administration will also be judged by its performance on ocean issues leading up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (RIO+10) this August in Johannesburg, South Africa. Oceana calls on the U.S. to lead the world in reducing destructive fishing and pollution, and to help protect global food security.
Earth Day provides the Bush Administration the chance to announce that it will initiate progressive actions to protect the oceans. The Administration should immediately state its intention to record and minimize wasted catch, to control pollution, and to lead the world at the summit in Johannesburg in becoming better caretakers of ocean resources.
It’s time for President Bush to learn more about the oceans and to start implementing solutions. This Earth Day, PBS stations will air a groundbreaking documentary, “Empty Oceans, Empty Nets,” sponsored in part by Oceana. The film confirms what local fishermen and scientists are saying around the world: the supply of fish is plummeting, putting our oceans and ourselves at risk. It also explores possible solutions – from market incentives to consumer choices. I hope President Bush will find time to watch it.