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News Release 12-008

Federal Government Releases Action Plan to Address Ocean Challenges

Draft requests comments on actions agencies will take to improve the health of oceans, coasts, Great Lakes

Satellite image of the Earth.

The National Ocean Policy action plan addresses ocean, coastal and Great Lakes challenges.
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January 12, 2012

To address the most pressing challenges facing ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources, the federal government today released a National Ocean Policy action plan.

The draft requests comments on actions the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal agencies on the National Ocean Council will take to improve the health of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes, which support tens of millions of jobs, contribute trillions of dollars a year to the national economy and are essential to public health and national security.

The draft action plan will ensure that the federal government targets its resources to more effectively and efficiently deliver results for Americans, including greater predictability for ocean users and better access to the latest science and information related to ocean health.

The actions reflect ideas and input from industry, conservation groups, local officials, the public and other stakeholders who provided critical feedback to the National Ocean Council through two public comment periods and 12 regional listening sessions.

Ocean and coastal resources are under pressure from growing and often competing uses, such as national security, recreation, shipping, energy production and commercial fishing, as well as from pollution, resource extraction and climate change.

The draft Implementation Plan focuses on public-private partnerships, promoting efficiency and collaboration across sectors, managing resources with an integrated approach and making available and using the best science and information on ocean health.

The draft plan outlines key milestones, identifies responsible federal agencies and indicates the expected timeframe for completion of Implementation Plan actions.

The plan makes it a priority to:

  • Provide scientific information to support emerging sustainable uses of resources including fisheries, renewable energy, aquaculture and biotechnology;
  • Provide open access to data and information across the federal government for state and local decision-makers, ocean users, stakeholders and the public;
  • Identify and make available grant and partnership opportunities to support regional priorities;
  • Develop methods and standards for assessing the resilience of natural resources, cultural resources, coastal communities and infrastructure in a changing climate; and
  • Identify and conserve habitat for priority fish species.

Under the plan, NSF will play a major role in supporting the priority objectives of the National Ocean Policy and its action plan.

Examples of NSF contributions include:

  • NSF will serve a primary role in promoting the Inform Decisions and Improve Understanding priority objective, in particular advancing fundamental scientific knowledge of the oceans as guided by the Ocean Research Priorities Plan (ORPP).
  • NSF's Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) is cited as one of the major milestones for the Observations, Mapping and Infrastructure priority objective.
  • NSF will partner with other federal agencies in the assessment of oceanographic ship capabilities to support multi-mission agency activities in the Arctic.

To read the draft Implementation Plan and to submit comments, please visit the National Ocean Council website.

The National Ocean Policy, established by Executive Order 13547 on July 19th, 2010, provides that federal agencies will "ensure the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhance the sustainability of ocean and coastal economies, preserve our maritime heritage, support sustainable uses and access, provide for adaptive management to enhance our understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change and ocean acidification, and coordinate with our national security and foreign policy interests."

It also called for the creation of an interagency National Ocean Council to oversee the policy's implementation.

For more information about the National Ocean Council, please visit their website.


Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734,

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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The National Science Foundation's Ocean Observatories Initiative will play a key role.
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