The Oceans and Coastal Protection Division (OCPD) of the EPA envisions clean and safe oceans and coasts that sustain human health, the environment, and the economy. The mission of OCPD is to protect and restore the ocean and coastal ecosystems by promoting watershed-based coastal management, preventing pollution of the marine environment, and monitoring and assessing coastal conditions.
On June 12, 2009, President Obama established an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The Task Force is charged with developing a recommendation for a national policy that ensures protection, maintenance, and restoration of oceans, coasts and the great lakes.
Many human activities including shoreline development, land-based sources of pollution, and discharges from vessels impact ocean habitats. Direct pollution from vessels and the invasion of non-indigenous species causes significant environmental impacts to coastal and ocean ecosystems. Pollution from recreational, commercial, and military vessels emanates from a variety of sources such as gray water, sewage, ballast water, anti-fouling paints, hazardous materials, and municipal and commercial garbage, and other wastes. Marine debris is any man-made, solid material that enter the waterways either directly or indirectly from a number of land- and ocean-based sources.
In 1972, Congress enacted the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), also known as the Ocean Dumping Act, to prohibit the dumping of material into the ocean that would unreasonably degrade or endanger human health or the marine environment. Almost all the ocean dumped material is dredged material removed from the bottom of water bodies to maintain navigation channels and berthing areas. Other ocean disposed materials include fish wastes, human remains, and vessels.
Ocean dumping can be done only with a permit issued under the MPRSA. However, in the case of dredged material, the decision to issue a permit is made by the US Army Corps of Engineers, subject to EPA concurrence. The EPA is responsible for designating recommended ocean dumping sites for all types of materials.
The EPA’s only ocean and coastal monitoring vessel is the Ocean Survey Vessel Bold (The Bold) which was acquired on March 31, 2004. According to the EPA, accurate and timely data collection and analysis along the coasts will help to take actions necessary to keep the coastal and ocean waters healthy.