Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Cancellation of the National Ocean Policy

Executive Order Cancellation of the National Ocean Policy

Compiled and written by Craig Strang, Co-Chair, California Environmental Literacy Steering Committee

In June of 2018, much of the United States Policy on the Ocean, Coasts and Great Lakes, also known as the National Ocean Policy (NOP) was cancelled through an executive order. The purpose of the original NOP was to enhance our ability to maintain healthy, resilient, and sustainable ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources for present and future generations.

On June 19, 2018, Congressman Raúl Grijalva, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, along with six other members of Congress, stated in a letter, “We are concerned that the new Executive Order is short-sighted and backs away from that commitment and will overturn years of critical ocean planning and policy.” Grijalva is calling for hearing in the Natural Resources Committee to examine the implications of the Administration’s new policy.


The 106th Congress passed the Oceans Act of 2000, which created the United States Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP), chaired by Retired Admiral James Watkins. USCOP toured the country for months holding hearings for extensive public comment.

After consulting hundreds of stakeholders and scientists, the USCOP published a final report, An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century. The USCOP initially explicitly excluded any consideration of education within its scope, but at every hearing, public comment focused on the critical need for education to be the essential foundation of any new ocean policy. Compelling testimony was provided by many members of the National Marine Educators Association and the National Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Network. As a result, The Blueprint included a section on Public Education in Chapter 3: Setting the Nation’s Sites, and the entirety of Chapter 8: Promoting Lifelong Ocean Education, that called out the impressive work of COSEE and the NOAA Sea Grant program.

The Blueprint also included 212 recommendations for comprehensive and coordinated national ocean policy, calling for a shift to ecosystem management and restoration, sustainable fisheries, support for coastal and ocean resilience in light of ocean acidification and sea level rise, and many policies aimed at improving the health of the ocean. In December 2004, the Bush Administration formally responded to the recommendations by submitting to Congress the U.S. Ocean Action Plan. In 2010, the Obama Administration formally adopted the resulting U.S. Policy on the Ocean, Coasts and Great Lakes. Many in the Ocean Literacy community remember the cheer that went up nationwide when the policy became public and used the word, “ocean” in its singular, not plural form, in the title, to signify the importance of communicating to the public that “there is only one ocean,” one interconnected body of water that all people and organisms share and depend on. An Interagency Working Group on Ocean Education was created as part of the National Ocean Council, to oversee and coordinate efforts to improve Ocean Literacy as part of the national coordinated, comprehensive National Ocean Policy.

Most of this now is no longer in effect. This will have repercussions for the health of the ocean, efforts to improve Ocean Literacy, and fishing and other maritime industries. In light of the acceleration of sea level rise and other impacts from climate change, the dismantling of the Bush/Obama National Ocean Policy is potentially catastrophic. Congressman Grijalva’s letter states, “President Trump is unilaterally throwing out components of the NOP and the decades of work and input from Congress, two previous Administrations, policy experts, and the American public that went into its creation.”

Please contact your Congressional Representative to comment on the request for the Natural Resources Committee to hold a hearing to examine the impact of cancelling the National Ocean Policy.

Below is the press release from Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee with a link to Congressman Grijalva’s letter.

June 19, 2018

Ranking Member Grijalva, Committee Dems Request Hearing as Trump Cancels Major Portions of the Successful National Ocean Policy

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said today that President Trump’s destructive cancellation of much of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), which he announced in an executive order this afternoon, demands a Natural Resources Committee hearing as soon as possible. Grijalva and six House Democratic colleagues sent a letter to Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) requesting the hearing and underscoring the damage that could be done to ocean health without the environmental safeguards and priorities included in the NOP.

The letter is also signed by Reps. Nanette Barragán, Jim Costa, Jared Huffman and Alan Lowenthal, all Democrats of California; Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.); and Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam). Huffman is ranking member of the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans, and Lowenthal is ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

Trump’s cancellation of much of the policy threatens the U.S. economy, as the authors write to Bishop today, citing a 2015 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report:

Healthy oceans are important from an ecological standpoint, but they are also central to the livelihoods of millions of Americans. In 2015, the U.S. ocean and Great Lakes economy accounted for $320 billion in gross domestic product. Unfortunately, the oceans face significant threats, including illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, harmful algal blooms, marine debris, overfishing, and more.

The letter, available at, points out that the Natural Resources Committee has a long history of involvement with the NOP, holding hearings and advancing legislation in previous congresses. Trump, the authors write, “is unilaterally throwing out . . . decades of work and input from Congress, two previous Administrations, policy experts, and the American public that went into its creation.”

The NOP is a framework for managing competing uses of our maritime resources, and some elements significantly impact national security. The NOP was formalized through Executive Order 13547 in 2010, which formally adopted the recommendations of a task force created by the Oceans Act of 2000. The policy prioritizes maritime climate resilience, marine ecosystem restoration, agency consideration of ocean acidification and sea level rise in policymaking, and more.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management offers a full explanation of the NOP and its implementation at


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