In a year in which global warming dominated much of the conversation, it was hard to miss all the stories describing the mass coral die-offs, increased acidification, proliferating dead zones, and sea level rises. While climate change certainly played a role in precipitating this crisis, most of the problems afflicting the world's oceans like overfishing, resource extraction, and pollution have been well documented for many years, if not decades.

According to the NRDC, we've pushed 75 percent of the world's fisheries to or beyond the limits of sustainability, and 90 percent of large ocean predators—such as tuna and swordfish—have simply disappeared. But although our oceans are in trouble, right now we have no comprehensive, national law to protect and restore them. Enter the Healthy Oceans Act similar to the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

What the Healthy Ocean Act Will Do:

1. Strengthen leadership and coordination at the Federal level by codifying the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the lead Federal, civilian ocean agency with responsibility for coasts, oceans, and Great Lakes. NOAA was established by executive order in 1970 and has never had a legislatively defined or stable purpose or structure.

2. Establish a National Oceans Advisor to the President and an interagency Committee on Ocean Policy to improve coordination and strengthen leadership around a common vision of ocean ecosystem health.

3. Establish an "Ocean and Great Lakes Conservation Trust Fund" as a permanent funding source for State and Federal activities related to developing and implementing Regional Ocean Strategic Plans.

What You Can Do:

Send a letter to your representative to co-sponsor Oceans-21, the Oceans Conservation, Education and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 21).