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Ocean pollution

CO2 emissions are acidifying oceans, much to alarm of environmental scientists

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: ocean pollution, ocean health, ocean acidification

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(NewsTarget) Ocean experts told a Senate panel last week that the oceans are in bad shape and getting worse, and called on Congress to enforce recommendations to support ocean research and increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA).

Experts say industrial pollution, coastal runoff and overfishing are causing serious damage to the nation's oceans and coastal waters, such as oxygen-poor "dead zones" that have already appeared in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Oregon and in Chesapeake Bay.

A rise in greenhouse gasses and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are causing the oceans to become more acidic, and from coast to coast U.S. scientists are concerned about increased algae blooms.

Leon Panetta, cochair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative and former California congressman, says the U.S. government's policies on oceans are "dysfunctional, out-of-date and inadequate," and calls for the Senate to enact a national ocean policy.

"We have done it for clean water, we have done it for clean air, but we do not have a national ocean policy that commits this country to protecting the oceans," Panetta says.

Experts say part of the solution is to increase funding for the NOAA, but the Bush administration recently proposed a $280 million cut to the NOAA's 2007 budget, which would in turn reduce the National Ocean Service's budget by 30 percent.

"A budget is a blueprint of priorities," says Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NY). "Our oceans are facing enough mandate difficulties. We shouldn't compound the problem by refusing to allocate the resources that we must have in order to meet these challenges."

Panetta says the United States spends only 6 percent of its research budget on studying the oceans. He also asked the Senate to pass the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, saying it is a "disgrace that the United States of America is the only industrialized country" to fail to confirm the treaty that sets international standards for military sea vessels, fishing, mining the sea bed and protecting the marine environment.


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