We Sell Sea Shelves

Is the government so desperate for money that it would sell off
rights to the continental shelf and privatize the ocean commons?
Given the benefits such a sale would provide to industry and
government coffers, such privatization is only too real a
possibility, reports Jeremy Brown of Tompaine.com.
‘Privatizing the ocean commons could well become one of the great
giveaways of the early 21st century,’ he writes.

Faced with a similar deficit crisis back in the 1990s, the
government sold off unused broadcast frequencies to raise money.
Today, the gears appear to be in motion for selling off U.S.
territorial waters, called the Exclusive Economic Zone. According
to Brown, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy was established in
2000 by Congress to deal with seabed property rights issues. More
than half of the commission’s presidential-appointed members have
direct ties to the oil, mining, development, and aquaculture
industries that stand to benefit from the sale of the EEZ. ‘Only
two members have any connection to stakeholders who will likely be
hurt if the continental shelf is opened to new industrial
development: shipping and fishing,’ he notes.

And yet, the sale of the EEZ could provide an economic bonanza
for industry. Potential commercial benefits for private buyers
range from familiar oil and gas development to expanded aquaculture
opportunities to the mining of minerals like deep-sea manganese
nodules and methane hydrates.

Because the workings of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy have
been largely unreported by the media, the public debate about the
development of the continental shelf has yet to begin. Considering
the financial benefits to industry and government, it seems likely
the debate will be a fierce one.
Erica Wetter

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We Sell Sea

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