Last week, Obama Administration officials released the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force Interim Report (the “Interim Report”), which lays out a comprehensive national policy for protecting and managing the use of our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes. Created by President Obama via a June 12, 2009 Presidential Memorandum, the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force (the “Task Force”), is led by the Council on Environmental Quality’s Chair, Nancy Sutley and is composed of twenty-four senior-level officials from government agencies, departments, and offices. In preparing the Interim Report, the Task Force sought input from within the federal government, and from local officials, tribal representatives, scientists, legal and policy experts, and other stakeholders. The Task Force also solicited public input via a 90-day public engagement process. 

The Interim Report identifies three key components to its comprehensive ocean and coastal strategy: (1) a national policy, (2) a robust governance structure, and (3) categories for action. The Interim Report’s national policy proposal is premised on the stewardship of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes as being “intrinsically and intimately linked” to human health, environmental sustainability, economic prosperity, security, foreign policy, social justice, and adaptation to climate change. With respect to the robust governance structure, the Interim Report calls for increased coordination among government agencies. To this end, the Interim Report proposes an interagency National Ocean Council to facilitate interagency coordination on ocean-related issues and implement the National Ocean Policy. The Interim Report also prioritizes nine categories for action in order to address the main challenges currently confronting our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes, including ecosystem-based management, improved observing systems and data collection, coastal and marine spatial planning, and regional ecosystem protection and restoration.

There is a 30-day window for submitting written comments on the Interim Report. The Task Force is also holding several regional public meetings to brief the public and accept comments on the Interim Report, and to obtain input on developing a framework for coastal and marine spatial planning. The Task Force has until December 9, 2009 to submit its proposed coastal and marine spatial planning framework to President Obama. The final Task Force report will also be issued later this year.