"As Oceans Fall Ill, Washington Bureaucrats Squabble"

"Off the coast of Washington state , mysterious algae mixed with sea foam have killed more than 8,000 seabirds, puzzling scientists. A thousand miles off California , researchers have discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex roughly twice the size of Texas filled with tiny bits of plastic and other debris....

As the grim news mounts, a storm is brewing in Washington, D.C. , over who should oversee oceans policies. A White House task force has recommended creating a National Ocean Council that would develop and implement national ocean policy and include the secretaries of state, defense, agriculture, interior, health and human services, labor, commerce, transportation and homeland security.

It also would include the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, the administrators of NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Plus the president's advisers on national security, homeland security, domestic policy and economic policy. The chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy would head the council.

However, NOAA, the nation's primary ocean agency, which includes the National Ocean Service, the nation's premier science agency for oceans and coasts; the National Marine Fisheries Service, which manages living marine resources; the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research , which studies climate, weather and air quality; and the National Weather Service -- is missing from the task force's list."

Les Blumenthal reports for McClatchy Newspapers November 8, 2009.

Monday, November 9, 2009