Policy ForumScience Policy

Proposed U.S. Policy for Ocean, Coast, and Great Lakes Stewardship

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Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1485-1486
DOI: 10.1126/science.1190041

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The Deepwater Horizon–BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a stark reminder of the intimate dependence of coastal communities on healthy coastal and oceanic ecosystems and of the urgent need to revise policies to ensure wise stewardship of coasts, oceans, and Great Lakes. In the Gulf, and around the world, scientific evidence indicates that coastal and oceanic ecosystems are being disrupted and depleted, with serious consequences for human well-being (1, 2). Oil spills are but one threat. Overfishing, destructive fishing gear, nutrient and chemical pollution, habitat loss, and introduction of nonnative species threaten the health of these ecosystems. Climate change and ocean acidification interact with and exacerbate the impacts of these stressors. The result is the loss of many benefits that humans want and need from these ecosystems, including healthy seafood, clean beaches, resilient economies and jobs, cultural and recreational opportunities, vibrant coastal communities, protection against hurricanes, abundant wildlife, provision of drinking water, and the oxygen that we breathe (2).