September 15, 2009


 White House developing policy on waters, coasts

Posted Sept. 1, 2009

Federal authorities are working on a broad stewardship plan for oceans, U.S. coasts, and the Great Lakes.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality is leading a task force that is expected to deliver recommendations for a national policy on the nation's large bodies of water and waterfronts by mid-September. The group, the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, includes members from five other White House offices and at least 18 other federal entities.

AVMA staff members have been involved in talks with the task force since late July.

White House officials announced the initiative in a June 12 presidential memorandum to the heads of federal departments and agencies. The document, which is publicly available, states the U.S. government has a stewardship responsibility to "maintain healthy, resilient, and sustainable oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes resources."

"To succeed in protecting the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes, the United States needs to act within a unifying framework under a clear national policy, including a comprehensive, ecosystem-based framework for the longterm(sic) conservation and use of our resources," the memorandum states.

The task force was directed to, within 90 days of the June 12 memorandum, develop recommendations for a policy that would uphold stewardship responsibilities, ensure accountability for actions affecting those bodies of water, and correspond with international law. The group was also instructed to review the federal government's policy coordination framework and create a strategy for the new national policy.

The task force was also given a second set of goals—due 180 days after the memorandum's publication—involving coastal and marine spatial planning.

Following a late-July conference call among the White House Council on Environmental Quality, AVMA staff, and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations, Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO, wrote a letter to the council that states the AVMA recognizes President Barack Obama's concern for the health of the nation's waterways and the need to develop a national policy for oceans, U.S. coasts, and the Great Lakes. And he asserts that veterinarians can offer expertise and input as the policy is developed.

"As veterinarians, we strive to protect our nation's public health and that of companion and food producing terrestrial and aquatic animals, all of which impact, and are impacted by, the state of our nation's waterways," his letter states. "Specifically, our medical expertise includes knowledge of epidemiology and the prevention, control, and treatment of aquatic and terrestrial animal diseases, including those that may be zoonotic and would directly impact human health.

"Veterinarians are also intimately involved with animal health in aquaculture, animal agriculture, and the inspection of the animal product foods we consume."

Dr. DeHaven's letter also emphasizes the AVMA's leadership in the One Health Initiative and the need for a one-health approach in developing the policy.

Obama noted in a June proclamation that oceans are critical to supporting life and the nation's economy, and he said the United States "has been a leader in exploring and protecting this critical resource." His administration is working on an integrated and comprehensive national ocean policy that will "incorporate ecosystem-based science and management and emphasize our public stewardship responsibilities" and on developing a marine spatial planning framework "for the conservation and sustainable use of ocean resources."

"I am committed to protecting these resources and ensuring accountability for actions that affect them," Obama said.

Information on the White House Office of Environmental Quality is available at