Pew Explores the Left-Most Shores of America’s Oceans

Published October 1, 2003

America’s Living Oceans
by The Pew Ocean Commission
a division of the Pew Charitable Trust

Before I initiate my critical review of this beautiful, full-color, 8-1/2″ x 11″ manifesto for government management of America’s oceans, let me strongly recommend that each and every reader request a free copy of the book from the left-leaning Pew Charitable Trust by calling 703/516-0624. This will serve two purposes: First, you will make one less copy available to readers less able to evaluate its poor science and exaggerated conclusions; and second, you will own a beautifully illustrated book about our oceans full of fascinating information which, when divided by 10, will prove very instructive.

Pew assembled a marvelous collection of high-profile politicians, philanthropists, and personalities to travel the country, talk to people, and gather junk science reports from politically motivated scientists. Then Pew approved a well-written and beautifully illustrated report whose recommendations, if ever implemented, would essentially require a federal permit to swim in, fish in, live near, or produce anything in proximity to our oceans. The single goal of this report is to make our oceans as inaccessible to the American public as environmental zealots have succeeded in making our wilderness areas.

Former influential California congressman and Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta wrote the forward to the book. He remarks on the importance of saving the fishing industry in California, leading me to wonder if in fact he was not deceived into participating in this project.

David Rockefeller, Jr. wrote the preface, which echoes the rich man’s sentiments of preservation for all–not recognizing that his preservationist rhetoric removes the resource from man’s beneficial use.

Some Redeeming Qualities

The book contains many interesting and accurate facts, not the least of which is the statement,

The oceans are our largest public domain. America’s oceans span nearly 4.5 million square miles, an area 23 percent larger than the nation’s land area. Their biological riches surpass those of our national forests and wilderness areas. The genetic species, habitat, and ecosystem diversity of the oceans is believed to exceed that of any earth system.

The book also offers some capitalist sentiment:

Though a price tag has never been assigned to our coastal economy, it is clear that it contributes significantly to the nation’s overall economic activity. Tens of thousands of jobs in fishing, recreation, and tourism depend on healthy, functioning coastal ecosystems.

It even offers a little optimism:

In the midst of crisis, there are expressions of hope and signs of success. Striped bass, severely depleted along our Atlantic shores, made a striking comeback when given a chance. North Atlantic swordfish recently did the same in response to lower catch limits and closed nursery areas. Seabirds, kelp beds, and fish communities returned to the coastal waters off Los Angeles after waste discharges were reduced.

But make no mistake: the Pew-recommended course of action is an anti-capitalist, anti-individual freedom, pro-government course.

Questionable Science

The Pew report exaggerates all scientific negatives. Over and over again it bemoans the “dead zones” in our oceans, only once mentioning in small print that in fact these are “hypoxic zones”–areas of low oxygen, thus inhabited by fewer aquatic species than other areas. They are by no means “dead.”

The Pew report also tells incredible tall tales of invasive species and endangered species, continually stretching the truth but never so egregiously as the report’s echoing of worst-case (make that incredible case) forecasts of 10º Fahrenheit increases in global temperature and 35-inch increases in sea level due to global warming.

The report paints the usual distorted picture of a society eating away at its land mass through development, when in fact Americans occupy just 4.3 percent of the nation’s land area. Pew chooses an absurd trend line to predict a nearly 40 percent increase in America’s developed acreage over the next 22 years.

The report’s sharpest barbs are saved for America’s growing aquiculture industry, which threatens to improve the health of humans worldwide by supplying the globe with more animal protein at more reasonable prices than ever before.

Command-and-Control Solutions

Before making 31 recommendations for the command-and-control of our nation’s ocean territories, the Pew report sugar-coats its intentions with this lovely paragraph.

To achieve and maintain healthy ecosystems requires that we change our perspective and extend an ethic of stewardship and responsibility toward the oceans. Most importantly, we must treat our oceans as a public trust. The oceans are a vast public domain that is vitally important to our environmental and economic security as a nation. The public has entrusted the government with the stewardship of our oceans, and the government should exercise its authority with a broad sense of responsibility toward all citizens and their long-term interests.

Is that not gorgeous rhetoric? Maybe that is a third reason to get this book: to appreciate the brilliance of the devious socialist mind!

Among the worst recommendations of the report you will find the following:

  • “As part of a National Ocean Policy Act Congress should establish regional ocean ecosystems councils consisting of appropriate federal, state, and tribal representatives. These councils should be charged with developing and overseeing implementation of enforceable regional ocean governance plans to carry out national policy to protect, maintain, and restore marine ecosystems.”
  • Implement ecosystem-based planning and marine zoning and regulate the use of fishing gear that is destructive to marine habitat.
  • Require bycatch (discarded catch) monitoring and management plans as well as comprehensive access and allocation planning as a condition of fishing.
  • Redirect government programs and subsidies away from harmful coastal development.
  • Congress should enact legislation to regulate marine aquiculture.
  • Reduce fishing capacity where necessary using traditional buyback programs and providing other transition assistance for displaced fishermen and affected communities.

Considered individually, many of these recommendations sound as warm and fuzzy as motherhood and apple pie. Taken together, however, the 31 recommendations would make the oceans of the United States a wholly owned subsidiary of the federal government. Virtually no freedom would be left for an individual citizen to enjoy and employ our ocean resources, even in the most harmless and unobtrusive manner.

There is a parallel in the production of this book to Fatal Harvest, a book I reviewed earlier this year. (See “A Picture Book for Socialist Warriors,” Environment & Climate News, March 2003.) Masquerading as a colorful coffee table book, its intent was to destroy agriculture as we know it and force the world to rely on organic farming–with the resultant starvation of millions, if not billions, of people on our planet. American’s Living Oceans has similar, if not quite as draconian, intentions of depriving society of many of nature’s greatest resources.

Dr. Jay Lehr is science director for The Heartland Institute. His email address is [email protected].