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Alaska weighs in on new federal oceans policy


With the world's oceans facing mounting threats from pollution, climate change and overfishing, the Obama administration held the first of several public hearings intended to help it draft a coordinated policy for managing the health of the seas.

During their stop in Alaska, members of the White House's Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force said they expected to have a list of priorities for improving ocean stewardship in place by mid-September. By December, officials said, they planned to set out a broad strategy for sustainably allocating natural resources among interests such as fishing, oil and gas development, shipping, wind and tidal energy, boating and wildlife preservation.

“In every ... ocean around the world, over-exploitation has led to widespread depletion and disruption, often despite good intentions,” said Jane Lubchenko, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the task force.

“This is not to say we can't use the ocean,” she said. “We need to be able to use it. Just not use it up.”

The Arctic Ocean faces the twin pressures of melting sea ice and increased industrial development, officials said, but still is pristine enough to protect if controls are put in place soon enough.

Alaska's continental shelf holds a third of all U.S. coastal oil reserves, and a fourth of the available gas. The state's coastal waters account for $5.8 billion worth of seafood a year, 60% of America's total catch. This is also the nation's last great wilderness, the refuge of animals including grizzly bears, polar bears, wolves, salmon and birds that are struggling or nonexistent elsewhere in the U.S.

Some of the state's normally robust salmon stocks have experienced a significant and unexplained decline over the last year. Some have attributed it to massive industrial fishing in the Bering Sea, which often nets significant quantities of salmon as byproduct when targeting more abundant fish.

The U.S. has the largest ocean area of any country, but it is managed by more than 20 different agencies administering 140 different laws.

“Each agency has statutory responsibility over pieces that will become ocean policy. So the first step is to try to set an overall framework,” said task force chairwoman Nancy Sutley of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “We need to look at how the federal government organizes itself in dealing with ocean marine resources and then attempt to set some priorities.”

--Kim Murphy

Photo: The Alaska Fisheries Science Center has conducted scientific surveys near Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Credit: Jen Nomura / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Title: US Pacific Ocean Legislation

Your scope of legislation should your Canadian neighbours to the north because the toxic waste southern Vancouver Island has pumped into the Pacific Ocean for many years is surely having a profound effect by now.

You should all be aware that southern Vancouver Island has disposed of its raw sewage by pumping it, untreated, through (up to) 29 local outfalls, directly into the Pacific Ocean, only screening out the lumps first (honestly!). Products labeled “dangerous poison” and “corrosive” wash down our drains, out to sea. Residential and commercial cleaners, personal care cosmetics, undigested pharmaceuticals, raw and cooked food residue, diseases contained in human waste, and more, are released into the Pacific without treatment at all.

Now, we have a new concern to worry about. A 2008 British study has identified that new anti-odour socks, as well as certain bandages, athletic wear, deodorants and anti-bacterial cleaning products, contain the new nanoparticles (called “nanosilver”). A nanoparticle measures 1 to 100 nanometers, a nanometer is a billionth of a meter, and the silver nanoparticles are around 30 nanometers across. The particles are so small they can cross human cell barriers, or leech and cause a great deal of damage to the environment if they escape waste water treatment systems (which we do not have). These small nanoparticles, also called ionic silver (the dissolved form of the element), does not just attack odour-causing bacteria. It can also hijack chemical processes essential for life in other microbes and aquatic animals. “Once the silver ions get into the gills of fish, it's a pretty efficient killer," said Mr Benn.

Right now, Victoria’s proposal is to delay completion of new sewage treatment facilities until 2024, or 15 years from now, to save [paying] costs [now]. Games guest, policing, athlete medical and training costs, all are inflating government deficits. HST means more things are going to be taxed soon here. Sewage treatment plant construction is expensive. Can our seafood in our ocean wait for latest, not earliest, completion of sewage treatment facilities?

A great environmental benefit would occur if British Columbia were pressured into abiding by Green Life suggestions. If area residents were restricted to purchasing and using natural products for cleaning while we wait for sewage treatment, only baking soda, vinegar, lemon and rubbing alcohol would be the cleaners flushed down our drains. Other, more toxic waste, such as that which may flow from funeral homes, hospitals or commercial locations, could be trucked to existing plants in other locations. That sounds like a great environmental benefit to me. Anyone there agree?

Fishes eat some... fish, and if the human being does not take care of it: others will early have made make him(it) for their place.


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