Obama 'Making Good on Threat' to Impose Ocean Zoning

The White House today announced new executive actions intended to protect oceans from acidification, sparking outcry from Republicans who accused the "imperial president" of overreach again.

"The President today announced a commitment to use his authority to protect some of our most precious marine landscape just like he has for our mountains and rivers and forests. To meet the President’s commitment, the Administration will immediately consider how we might expand protections near the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean, an area which contains some of the most pristine tropical marine environments in the world," the White House said. "These tropical coral reefs and associated marine ecosystems are also among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification."

"Before making decisions about the geographic scope and details of future marine protections, we will consider the input of fishermen, scientists, conservation experts, elected officials, and other stakeholders. The President is also calling on other world leaders to join him in this effort to ensure that the world’s most valuable ocean ecosystems remain productive and pristine for our children and grandchildren."

The actions also include a crackdown on black-market fishing, a process by which Americans can nominate areas to be new marine sanctuaries, and grants to build "resistance" against climate change in coastal communities.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said it all amounts to a plan to unilaterally lock up big swathes of the Pacific Ocean.

“For years the Obama Administration has threatened to impose ocean zoning to shut down our oceans, and today the President is making good on that threat. This is yet another example of how an Imperial President is intent on taking unilateral action, behind closed doors, to impose new regulations and layers of restrictive red-tape," Hastings said in a statement. "Oceans, like our federal lands, are intended to be multiple-use and open for a wide range of economic activities that includes fishing, recreation, conservation, and energy production. It appears this Administration will use whatever authorities – real or made-up – to close our ocean and coastal areas with blatant disregard for possible economic consequences."

Hastings said the administration is "creating an unworkable patchwork of management regimes that will hurt our economy and further strain our enforcement capabilities."

"The State Department just completed negotiating several science-based international fishery management agreements in the Pacific and is working on changes to an existing international agreement to allow U.S. tuna boats to have access to waters in the South Pacific," he said. "This announcement undercuts all of that work and will likely make the U.S. tuna fleet even less viable, meaning in the not-too-distant future all of America’s tuna will be caught by foreign vessels.”