New Governor Should Make Ocean and Coastal Health a Top Priority

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Groups deliver key ocean and Great Lakes goals to governor-elect Spitzer; New York should lead the nation in ocean and coastal protection.

A new era has begun in New York State for ocean and coastal resources protection

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A coalition of national, state and local environmental groups today outlined a series of key actions Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer should take to reverse the decline of New York's ocean health and make the state a national leader in ocean and coastal protection. The next steps include creation of an Ocean Health Index as an annual report card of the state's ocean health, convening the Mid-Atlantic Governors to address regional ocean issues and supporting and funding the recently-established New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council's work.

"New Yorkers depend on their ocean and coasts for food, recreation and valuable jobs, but these resources are in a state of silent crisis caused by pollution, destruction of productive marine habitat and increased strain on fish stocks," said Sarah Chasis, Ocean Initiative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Governor-Elect Spitzer should strengthen coastal and ocean protection efforts and establish an annual ocean check-up to highlight what's needed to sustain our coastal and ocean resources and the goods and services they provide. A state Ocean Health Index would serve as a diagnostic tool to help guide conservation and restoration efforts."

"Governor-Elect Spitzer has a great opportunity to manage New York's ocean resources to help protect our communities, provide fresh supplies of seafood and secure economic and recreational opportunities for everyone," said Environmental Defense scientist Dr. Jake Kritzer. "By convening a Mid-Atlantic Oceans Summit of his fellow-governors, Spitzer will keep New York in the lead in ocean conservation, regionally and nationally."

As underscored by a recently-released study in the journal Science and the findings of two recent national ocean commissions, ocean and coastal resources worldwide are in decline and New York is not immune to this crisis. In New York, more than 40 percent of estuary and bay waters are impaired or threatened and more than 35 percent of the most important commercial and recreational saltwater fish and shellfish are depleted or being harvested at unsustainable rates.

Last June, state lawmakers unanimously passed the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act to help restore and protect the state's marine resources. The landmark legislation established an interagency Council to help coordinate marine resource management and adopted an ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach for ocean and coastal resources. EBM - which was called for by both national ocean commissions and the Science study - is an important alternative to managing only on a species-by-species, problem-by-problem basis; it instead considers the interplay between different species, including humans, their habitats, and the combined impact of activities on the system.

"Ecosystem-based management allows us to create innovative and comprehensive solutions by looking at the whole system," said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "Governor-Elect Spitzer needs to support and expand the Council's efforts to move us toward EBM to increase our efforts to restore our estuaries and Great Lakes and begin the process of addressing the needs of restoring our oceans."

The New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council is also tasked with developing an atlas of ocean and coastal resources. "The atlas will help ensure that accurate information about the state of the ocean is available at all levels of government," said John Stouffer, Legislative Director of the Sierra Club's Atlantic Chapter. "We are asking Governor-Elect Spitzer for a corresponding Ocean Health Index to help distill this data into a snapshot of ocean health so we can move forward on restoration plans."

To fund these protection and restoration efforts, the coalition is requesting, as part of an expanded $500 million Environmental Protection Fund, $15 million toward ocean and bays restoration and protection and $10 million for the Great Lakes.

"In the past year, New York has taken some important steps forward to ensure that our ocean and Great Lakes ecosystems will be cleaner and healthier for future generations to enjoy," said David J. Miller, Executive Director of Audubon New York. "We need to continue to increase state funding for these efforts so that New York can match new federal funding sources, like the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act and Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, and continue to restore these important freshwater and marine habitats and the hundreds of bird species that rely on them."

"A new era has begun in New York State for ocean and coastal resources protection," said Friends of the Bay Executive Director Kyle Rabin. "We are at a critical juncture and we look to the incoming Governor to continue the great progress that has been made to protect these critical environmental and economic resources."

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment is an 80,000 member, not-for-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization working for the protection of public health and the natural environment.

Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 400,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems.

Friends of the Bay's mission is to preserve, protect and restore the ecological integrity and productivity of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor estuary and the surrounding watershed. Begun in 1987 by a small group of citizens concerned about the impact of proposed massive development of the Oyster Bay Harbor, Friends of the Bay has grown to be a watchdog for protecting the entire estuary from Mill Neck Creek to Cold Spring Harbor. Winner of national awards for environmental effectiveness, Friends of the Bay is recognized as one of the most effective environmental organizations around Long Island Sound and is respected by residents, the business community and government alike.

The Group for the South Fork is an environmental advocacy and education organization that is committed to the preservation of eastern Long Island's natural resources and rural heritage. Formed in 1972 by local citizens concerned about mounting development pressures, the organization¹s staff has fought passionately and steadfastly ever since to protect the region's unique environment, natural resources, agricultural tradition and quality of life.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1.2 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. More information is available at

The Ocean Conservancy strives to be the world's foremost advocate for the oceans. Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, we inform, inspire and empower people to speak and act for the oceans. The Conservancy is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in New England, Florida, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and California with support from more than half a million members and volunteers.

Peconic Baykeeper was formed in 1997 as the nineteenth organization sanctioned by Waterkeeper Alliance to protect and sustain Long Island's South Shore and Peconic Bays. We at Peconic Baykeeper patrol the bays, respond to citizen alerts, gather data, promote conservation and work to ensure the enforcement of environmental laws. We believe the physical and economic welfare of our communities depends on clean water.

The Sierra Club was founded in 1895 by renowned naturalist John Muir. The Atlantic Chapter represents the 45,000 Sierra Club members who live in New York State. The Atlantic Chapter is comprised of eleven local groups located throughout the state. These groups organize hikes and other outings and work to protect the environment. Visit our website,, to learn more.


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