merica is a nation intrinsically connected to and immensely reliant on the ocean. All
citizens—whether they reside in the country’s farmlands or mountains, in its cities or
along the coast—affect and are affected by the sea. Our grocery stores and restaurants are
stocked with seafood and our docks are bustling with seaborne cargo. Millions of visitors
annually flock to the nation’s shores, creating jobs and contributing substantially to the
U.S. economy through one of the country’s largest and most rapidly growing economic
sectors: tourism and recreation.
The offshore ocean area under U.S. jurisdiction is larger than its total land mass,
providing a vast expanse for commerce, trade, energy and mineral resources, and a buffer
for security. Born of the sea are clouds that bring life-sustaining water to our fields and
aquifers, and drifting microscopic plants that generate much of the oxygen we breathe.
Energy from beneath the seabed helps fuel our economy and sustain our high quality of
life. The oceans host great biological diversity with vast medical potential and are a fron-
tier for exciting exploration and effective education. The importance of our oceans, coasts,
and Great Lakes cannot be overstated; they are critical to the very existence and well-
being of the nation and its people. Yet, as the 21st century dawns, it is clear that these
invaluable and life-sustaining assets are vulnerable to the activities of humans.
Human ingenuity and ever-improving technologies have enabled us to exploit—and
significantly alter—the ocean’s bounty to meet society’s escalating needs. Pollution runs
off the land, degrading coastal waters and harming marine life. Many fish populations are
declining and some of our ocean’s most majestic creatures have nearly disappeared. Along
our coasts, habitats that are essential to fish and wildlife and provide valuable services to
humanity continue to suffer significant losses. Non-native species are being introduced,
both intentionally and accidentally, into distant areas, often resulting in significant eco-
nomic costs, risks to human health, and ecological consequences that we are only begin-
ning to comprehend.
Yet all is not lost. This is a moment of unprecedented opportunity. Today, as never
before, we recognize the links among the land, air, oceans, and human activities. We have
access to advanced technology and timely information on a wide variety of scales. We rec-
ognize the detrimental impacts wrought by human influences. The time has come for us
to alter our course and set sail for a new vision for America, one in which the oceans,
coasts, and Great Lakes are healthy and productive, and our use of their resources is both
profitable and sustainable.