Recent U.S. policies regarding the use of marine resources have sought
to compromise between environmental issues and economic interests.
Our oceans are home to a rich diversity of species. They add to our
store of scientific knowledge about ecosystems, species interactions, and
climate cycles, and enhance our lives with aesthetic beauty and a host of
recreational activities. They also support our fishing, seabed mining, and
aquaculture industries. Once considered an inexhaustible resource, the
seas are now showing the results of environmental stressors they have
experienced over the past decades, including pollution, pesticide runoff,
overfishing, and coral reef degradation. Wise legislation attempts to help
species and habitats that are vulnerable or declining, while protecting
the interests of industries and individuals whose livelihoods depend on
President Clinton acknowledged the importance of a balanced ocean
policy by signing P.L. 106-256 (S. 2327) on August 7, 2000 (see Associated Press news story). The bill
established a Commission on Ocean Policy to study federal ocean
legislation. The commission will be composed of 16 representatives of
industry, government, environmental groups, and scientific institutions,
and will start work in January 2001. It will present its findings to
Congress in 2002.
Legislation in the 106th Congress has addressed a diversity of marine
topics, including regulation of the fishing industry, development of
aquaculture, and marine mammal conservation, as described in the
Congressional Research Service Issue Brief, Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammals
Legislation in the 106th Congress (September 20, 2000).
Commercial and sport fishing legislation included bills intended to
reduce salmon mortality in Columbia and Snake River irrigation systems and
turbines, provide for coral reef conservation, improve water quality in
the Florida Keys, provide funds to states under the Wallop-Breaux Sport
Fish Restoration Program, compensate fishermen who suffered losses in
hurricanes and in the Long Island Sound lobster fishery disaster, manage
fishing in Glacier Bay National Park, and sponsor fishery restoration.
Aquaculture, the farming of fish and other aquatic species under
controlled conditions, is one of the fastest-growing food production
industries in the world. Legislation in this area included a proposal to
fund the development of regulation and permit-issuing procedures for
aquaculture facilities using Coastal Zone Enhancement Grants.
Legislation with regard to marine mammals revoked a Marine Mammal
Protection Act (MMPA) exemption that permits subsistence hunting of Cook
Inlet beluga whale until the end of fiscal year 2000 (unless a cooperative
agreement is negotiated between NMFS and the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal
Council), and terminated the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration's civil administration of the Pribilof Islands in
The 106th Congress is expected to address the reauthorization and
amendment of two major laws: the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and
Management Act (MSFCMA) that manages domestic use of fish and shellfish in
U.S. coastal waters beyond the jurisdiction of individual states, and the
Marine Mammal Protection Act that restricts use of these animals and
provides for their protection under specific circumstances.
Written by Heather E. Lindsay.