The September 2009 Interim Report* of the U.S. Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force proposes a National Ocean Policy (pp. 13-17), and identifies “Changing Conditions in the Arctic” (pp. 7, 26, 37) as one of nine priority areas for which strategic action plans should be developed (p. 28). The proposed Policy incorporates the “precautionary approach” and “best available science” among its principles. The Interim Report is open for a 30-day public review and comment period, which ends October 16, 2009.
*NOTE: If the URL for the Interim Report is not responsive, NOAA summarizes some of the report's highlights here.
In the case of the Arctic, the Interim Report calls for the strategic action plan to address “Improvement of the scientific understanding of the Arctic system and how it is changing in response to climate-induced and other changes.” (p. 37).
The Interim Report’s focus on the Arctic is notable and welcome, given the relative dearth of references in other documents leading up to the proposed National Ocean Policy. The slow process leading to an integrated, ecosystem-based national ocean policy traces most recently to two documents: the independent Pew Oceans Commission report in 2003, America’s Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change, and the 2004 report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, titled Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century (whose arctic focus was on fossil-based fuel sources and contaminants concentration). The U.S. Commission was established under the Oceans Act of 2000, PL 106-256, with the mandate to “make recommendations for [a] coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy.” The Act also required the President to prepare a formal response to those recommendations, which reply took the form of the 2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan (containing one general reference to the Arctic Ocean). President George W. Bush established the U.S. Committee on Ocean Policy (not to be confused with the Commission on Ocean Policy, above) as part of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) by Executive Order EO 13366, effective December 21, 2004.
The Interim Report of September 2009 is a work product of the temporary Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force established by President Obama in a June 12, 2009 memorandum on National Policy for the Oceans, Our Coasts and the Great Lakes. The Task force members comprise senior officials from departments, agencies and offices represented on the Committee on Ocean Policy. CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley toured the U.S. Arctic in August 2009 with NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, and others.