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National Ocean Policy Executive Order

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Why it Matters

The world’s oceans sustain billions of people across the globe and are home to innumerous marine species. Healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems naturally mitigate the effects of climate change and protect communities from storms and dangerous flooding, while supporting fisheries-related industry. Yet for decades, human activity and pollution has significantly deteriorated the health of ocean and coastal areas. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, President Obama implemented the first-ever National Ocean Policy, which provided a comprehensive plan to protect and improve the ecological health and economic value of the ocean, coastal areas, and the Great Lakes. Weakening these safeguards threatens the ocean as well as the nearly 40% of Americans who live in coastal communities.


June 12, 2009 President Obama establishes the Interagency Policy Task Force, consisting of senior-level officials from across the Administration. The Task Force conducts in-depth research, hosts roundtables, and solicits public comments in order to develop recommendations for a national ocean policy.

July 19, 2010 President Obama issues Executive Order 13547, which adopts the Task Force’s recommendations and creates the first-ever National Ocean Policy. The policy outlines 10 priorities, including: protecting the biological diversity of marine ecosystems, improving ocean resiliency, strengthening conservation, using the best available science to inform decision-making, and supporting sustainable access to the ocean. The Executive Order also calls for the development of regional ocean management plans to facilitate a more integrated, cross-jurisdictional approach to decision-making and to facilitate data collection and sharing.

April 2013 the National Ocean Council releases the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan and technical appendix.

Dec. 7, 2016 The National Ocean Council approves regional ocean management plans for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. In addition, following the executive order, five regions establish ocean data portals that governmental entities, stakeholders, and the public may access and utilize.

Trump Era

June 19, 2018 President Trump issues Executive Order 13840, “Ocean Policy to Advance the Economic, Security, and Environmental Interests of the United States.” This revokes Obama’s executive order, which established the National Ocean Policy and the national implementation plan. Trump’s executive order sets the overarching goals and priorities for agencies’ oceans-related actions. Listed below are the key components of Trump’s executive order.


Trump’s executive order delineates seven policy priorities:

  • Coordinating departments’ ocean management
  • Promoting the lawful use of the ocean
  • Exercising rights and jurisdiction over the ocean
  • Facilitating economic growth
  • Ensuring that policies do not prevent the sustainable use of the marine ecosystems
  • Modernizing the attainment and use of best available science
  • Facilitating collaboration among government entities, industry, the science community, and other stakeholders

Obama’s executive order included seven similar policies but also prioritized additional policies related to stewardship, biological diversity, and ecological health of the waters.


Whereas the previous executive order included multiple, proactive policy priorities related to protecting ecosystems, Trump’s executive order only includes one environment-related policy — to “ensure that Federal regulations and management decisions do not prevent productive and sustainable use of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters.”

This replaces previous language to “support sustainable…and productive access to, and uses of the ocean…” and to “bolster the conservation and sustainable uses of land in ways that will improve the health of [marine] ecosystems.”


Within 90 days, agencies are instructed to review their regulations, guidance, and policies to ensure consistency with Executive Order 13840. These internal reviews are due by Sep. 18, 2018.


Executive Order 13840 eliminates seven Federal entities that implemented the National Ocean Policy, including the Governance Coordinating Committee. The Governance Coordinating Committee served as an advisory body representing State, tribal, and local government interests related to Federal ocean policy and inter-jurisdictional issues.


President Trump replaces the National Ocean Council with the Ocean Policy Committee. The Committee is tasked with providing ocean-related policy advice to the President and engaging and coordinating with stakeholders, including local and tribal governments. The committee must also organize the public release of data related to oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes and identify research and technology needs. The Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy will be co-chairs of the interagency Ocean Policy Committee. The makeup of the Committee is almost identical to that of the Council, except that the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services are no longer represented.


Trump eliminates the five federally-supported Regional Planning Bodies established by Obama’s executive order. The White House describes these planning bodies as “duplicative” and “unnecessary.” These bodies, comprised of representatives from Federal, state, local, and tribal authorities, were in the process of developing regional ocean management plans. Ecosystem-based, regional planning is critical to marine management, because coastal and ocean ecosystems traverse jurisdictions and must be considered as a whole. Federal support allowed the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration to contribute its scientific expertise and resources as a member of the Regional Planning Bodies. The Regional Planning Bodies also established marine spatial plans and data portals to better understand the relevant ecosystems. Two regional plans that were approved by the Obama Administration will no longer be considered controlling policy for Federal agencies.

A subsequent statement by the White House and official guidance to agencies expresses support for Federal engagement with state-led, non-governmental regional ocean partnerships as well as coordination of resources and data sharing. Some – though not all – of these state-led regional partnerships directly participated in and supported the efforts of the regional planning bodies. To the extent regional partnerships carry on the work of the regional planning bodies, agencies are allowed to continue implementing elements of the regional plans and are also permitted to continue supporting data portals created through the regional planning bodies.

Aug. 1, 2018 the newly-formed Ocean Policy Committee meets for the first time. Among other actions, the Committee forms two subcommittees: the Ocean Resource Management subcommittee and the Ocean Science and Technology subcommittee. The Ocean Resource Management subcommittee is tasked with coordinating the public release of unclassified ocean-related data.

Oct. 19, 2018 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration releases a report identifying the top regional data needs and management issues. The report was completed as a first step in carrying out the executive order’s mandate to support regional data sharing. It compiles responses from representatives of the regional ocean partnerships, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Feb. 2019 the two Ocean Policy Committee subcommittees publish their 2019 workplans. The Ocean Resource Management subcommittee outlines steps for developing and implementing an ocean data release plan by October 2019. By July 2019, the Ocean Science and Technology subcommittee plans to identify and help implement projects across agencies that support ocean-related research and technology.

Nov. 19, 2019 President Trump signs a presidential memo directing the Ocean Policy Committee to “coordinate the development of a national strategy for mapping, exploring, and characterizing the U.S. EEZ, and for enhancing opportunities for collaboration among interagency and non-United States Government entities with respect to those activities.”

The Ocean Policy Committee’s work is ongoing. For updates, visit the White House’s website.

For more information

See EELP’s white paper, Analysis of the Regulation and Deregulation of U.S. Ocean and Fisheries Policies.