President Obama has proclaimed this June as the sixth annual National Oceans month. Started by President George W. Bush in 2007, President Obama in this year’s proclamation emphasized the importance of his new National Ocean Policy, which is further defined in the NOP implementation plan.
Why is this important? Symbolically, this should give us time to reflect on the importance of responsibly managing and using our ocean resources, at a time when many of us in the US may be enjoying one of our few experiences of the ocean as school lets out and families head to the beach. The oceans are more than just a playground, but few of us directly see the impact that the ocean environment has on our lives.
From tourism and fishing to international commerce and renewable energy production, coastal and waterside communities help maintain vital sectors of our Nation’s economy. Yet, while our livelihoods are inseparable from the health of these natural systems, our oceans are under threat from pollution, coastal development, overfishing, and climate change.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is an important agreement that almost all the world’s nations have signed declaring the oceans to be the common heritage of all humankind. “Almost all” is key – there is one nation in particular that has not signed UNCLOS, and of course, it’s the United States. A month ago, both President Obama and Secretary Clinton asserted that ratifying UNCLOS should be a top priority; something that is possible even in a climate of disfunctional American politics since only the Senate need get get involved.