US President Donald Trump today ended an 8-year-old policy to protect oceans.

The policy was created as hundreds of millions of litres of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from a broken well, covering more than 168,350 sq km, killing untold numbers of wildlife and devastating fisheries in several gulf coast states.

Then-President Barack Obama mentioned the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest and costliest oil spill in the nation's history, in the second sentence of an Executive Order that detailed the first national ocean policy and called on federal agencies to work closely with states and local governments to manage the waters off their coasts.

"The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and resulting environmental crisis is a stark reminder of how vulnerable our marine environments are, and how much communities and the nation rely on healthy and resilient ocean and coastal ecosystems," Obama's July 2010 order said.

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In contrast, Trump's order does not mention the explosion that killed nearly a dozen workers and the spill of 795 million litres of oil. The second sentence gives a nod to domestic energy production, the jobs it could provide and the financial rewards that can be reaped.

"Ocean industries employ millions of Americans and support a strong national economy. Domestic energy production from Federal waters strengthens the nation's security and reduces reliance on imported energy," his order reads.

BP was held responsible for the blowout of a well a mile underwater that set fire to the Deepwater Horizon rig and sank it. The well leaked for more than four months and poured three million barrels of crude into the gulf. The British company was fined US$62 billion, more than the value of Ford, Honda and General Motors combined.


In a statement, National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi praised the new executive order as a "renewed broad vision" to foster energy security and create jobs. Luthi called the Obama policy "an uber-bureaucratic solution to a government self-imposed problem."

"The offshore energy industry has successfully operated side by side with other ocean users, without major conflict, guided by the planning inherent in the five-year offshore national programme and the leasing process mandated by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act," Luthi said.

But a blog post by Alison Chase, a policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defence Council, offered a different perspective, calling Trump's order "an irresponsible move."

Under the old framework, "States from Maine to Virginia crafted plans over several years, together with regional fisheries managers, tribes and federal agencies - with extensive industry and public involvement," Chase said.

"There is no longer a requirement to work with states to provide for coordinated ocean protection and there is no longer a national policy to promote healthy ocean ecosystems."

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A fisherman casts his line from the storm wall along Pascagoula Bay, Mississippi. Photo / AP
A fisherman casts his line from the storm wall along Pascagoula Bay, Mississippi. Photo / AP