coastal ecosystems

The National Ocean Policy

by Gwen Bausmith

Growing up in southwest Ohio, I lived over 600 miles away from the ocean, viewing it as a vacation destination, a place very far removed from the agricultural fields and suburbs of the Midwest. It wasn’t until years later that I learned how much all of our lives, whether coastal or inland, are dependent upon and directly impact our ocean and coasts. Where I lived, my local tributaries fed into the Ohio River, which flowed to the Mississippi River, emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, and finally became part of the Atlantic Ocean. Understanding this connection was crucial to realizing my role in ocean and coastal environments.

Healthy and productive ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes regions are a significant part of our nation’s economy, contributing to untold millions of dollars a year and supporting tens of millions of jobs. The oceans are essential in international trade, transportation, energy production, recreational and commercial fishing, national security, and tourism. They also provide many ecological benefits such as flood and storm protection, climate regulation, and important habitat for fish species, migratory birds, and mammals.

My family depended on all of these services, especially for consumer goods and food. In addition, my father worked in the steel industry, relying heavily on our nation’s waters for transporting materials.

On July 19, 2010, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing the federal government to develop a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes, often referred to as the National Ocean Policy. It focuses on improving stewardship for our ocean and coastal resources and addressing their most pressing challenges.

It builds on over a decade of bipartisan discussions and looks toward a science-based approach for Federal, State, Tribal, and local partners to better manage the competing uses in these regions. Designed with extensive public and stakeholder input, the Policy will work to increase efficiencies across the Federal Government and provide access to better data to support multiple industries.

I am very proud to be a part of EPA’s involvement in the National Ocean Policy. EPA is committed to numerous actions and milestones in the Policy’s Implementation Plan, from improving water quality and promoting sustainable practices on land, to restoring and protecting regional ecosystems. I may not have realized it as a child growing up in the Midwest, but everyone has a stake in the future health of our ocean and coastal ecosystems. Every state is an ocean state.

About the Author: Gwen Bausmith is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Fellow at EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: It’s Easy To Be Green (at Scientific Meetings)

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Stephen S. Hale

How green are scientific societies? The Council of Scientific Society Presidents represents about 60 organizations with over 1.4 million members. If they all flew once a year to meet together for four days, that’s collectively 2.8 million flights and 11.2 million dirty coffee cups from breaks. Travel to and from meetings pours large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 1 For many frequent-flying scientists, air travel produces our biggest personal greenhouse gas impact, often making the carbon footprint of ecologists and conservation biologists exceed the U.S. per capita carbon footprint.  2 Many scientific societies are striving to make their meetings greener.

Recently, I helped prepare a green meeting policy for the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF), an international scientific organization that “advances understanding and wise stewardship of estuarine and coastal ecosystems worldwide.” The United Nations Environment Program says a green meeting is one where emissions of greenhouse gases are minimized and unavoidable emissions are compensated for, natural resource consumption is minimized, waste generation is avoided where possible and remaining waste is reused or recycled, and the local community benefits economically, socially, and environmentally.

Among other things, the policy calls for meeting attendees to make voluntary donations to a carbon offset fund. Offsets are not meant to replace reducing your emissions; offsets are to be used for emissions you cannot avoid. To be credible, it is important to buy certifiable carbon offsets that result in a real reduction of carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise not have happened. The Nature Conservancy website lists what to look for in carbon offset programs: permanence, additionality (would it have happened anyway), no leakage (the old practice just displaced to a new area), and standards of verification by third parties. Alternatively, CERF conferences can provide environmental footprint offsets for impacts other than carbon dioxide emissions (e.g., water use, paper consumption, waste products). Donations to local projects that, while not a certifiable carbon offset, would enhance other environmental values (e.g., local oyster reef restoration, small coastal vegetated buffer), serve to engage the community and provide local benefits.

The CERF Board hopes the policy will reduce the environmental footprint of CERF meetings and encourage other scientific organizations to follow down the same green path.

About the author: Stephen S. Hale joined EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a Research Ecologist in 1995. He is currently serving on the Governing Board of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation.

  1. H.E. Fox. 2009. Front Ecol Environ 7(6): 294-296.
  2. T.M. Hamill. 2007. Bull Am Meteorol Soc, Nov 2007. pp. 1816–1819; B. Lester. 2007. Science 318:36–38.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action; and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog post.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.