A prominent undersea explorer, a retired admiral, and a former top fisheries regulator are among the 16 people that President George W. Bush named last week to a new blue-ribbon Commission on Ocean Policy.
Congress established the government commission last year after lawmakers concluded that U.S. marine policy--on issues ranging from fisheries conservation to sealane security--needed a fresh look. Panel backers hope the new commission, whose members were chosen by Bush and the leaders of the House and Senate, will follow in the footsteps of a similar 1960s panel that catalyzed a host of marine research and laws.
"This is the single most important event in ocean resources management in over 30 years," believes retired Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, president of the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education (CORE) in Washington, D.C., which represents 63 marine research institutions. In particular, he says, it is a chance to highlight the role that marine research plays in understanding issues such as climate change and the ecological impacts of pollution.
Among those Bush named to serve on 16 June are Robert Ballard, the undersea search wizard who has tracked down the Titanic and other famous wrecks; retired Admiral James Watkins, a former CORE president and longtime advocate of marine research; and fisheries scientist Andrew Rosenberg, a University of New Hampshire dean who until recently led the National Marine Fisheries Service. They and the other panel members are expected to meet for the first time within a couple of months, but a final report is at least 18 months away.