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U.S. sets plans for better oceans policy

President Bush plans to sign an executive order Friday and create a new commission to oversee U.S. policy on oceans management.  A office called  the Committee on Ocean policy will be created to spearhead the effort.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush is creating a White House committee to oversee the nation’s ocean policies, with plans to improve research, better manage fisheries and regulate pollution from boats.

Bush was to sign an executive order Friday to launch the Committee on Ocean policy, headed by a presidential adviser, White House officials told The Associated Press.

“We also are moving forward with dozens of actions on a near-term time basis,” said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The increased focus on the problems of the world’s oceans comes in response to dozens of recommendations from a presidential commission, which wrapped up 2 1/2 years of work in September.

The commission’s chief recommendations included creating new councils and advisers within the White House and creating a $4 billion government trust fund to pay for new ocean initiatives.

Bush has not agreed to the trust fund idea.

Commission Chairman James Watkins has predicted the trust fund would be a tough sell politically. At a time when Bush is trying to rein in spending, it would mean diverting about four-fifths of the $5 billion in royalty and other payments that goes to the Treasury annually from offshore oil and gas drilling.

The trust fund is one of the commission’s recommendations that would need congressional approval because it involves changing the law.

Bush is going beyond the commission’s work with some of his own recommendations, such as reducing air pollution from marine vessels, both nationally and internationally.

A market system for managing fisheries would use tool such as individual fishing quotas to cut down on regulation and improve safety at sea, officials said.

Bush also has ordered Cabinet agencies to pay more attention to what private landowners, states and local governments say about how to manage the environment — the subject of an executive order in August.

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, created by Congress and former President Clinton, made 212 specific recommendations. Bush, who appointed its members, was required to respond to the report within three months.