Fear of Ocean Governance? Why?

The ocean is often described as "the last wilderness" or "a vast commons." It is neither. Civilization has left its mark for centuries in the itineraries of ships, the migration of peoples, the records of trade and exploration, and the interactions of nations. Sea power has served as a major force in the shaping of culture, and competition for the natural resources of the ocean has affected the livelihood of an historic succession of settlement and empire. Today, the challenge of governance faces the ocean with all the complexity and contradiction faced on land. The community of nations has evolved a Law of the Sea, a treaty and legal work-in-progress that begins to address the conflict of proprietary interests in the ocean, the sustainability of valuable food supply and mineral wealth, and the future exploitation of an environment about which we know not enough. Various agreements and admistrative tools have evolved to mitigate conflict, protect national interests, and maintain the natural and cultural values inherent in the global ocean. The need is defined and many suggestions for improved governance and progressive action are in place.

But the United States does not respond with alacrity or substance. Why?

Why should the US Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (comprised of representatives of the two national commissions that examined American ocean policy and made substantial recommendations in 2004) this week give a second year "grade" of C- (up from last year's D+) on progress to date? Reading the reports, the improvements in various categories are subtle at best, nuanced in terms of small, cosmetic first steps and bureaucratic adjustments with no substantial further actions or resources to follow. It would not take much to conclude that almost no advancement has occurred.

Why should the US remain one of the two major ocean nations that has not yet become party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea despite strong public support, Congressional initiatives, and a letter of endorsement from President George W. Bush? Why, with all that, does necessary, meaningful action never quite get taken?

Why should the prospects for H.R 21 The Ocean Conservation, Education and National Security Act (Oceans-21), introduced in the House of Representatives on the first day of the 110th Congress, seem uncertain despite the shift in power resulting from the 2006 mid-term elections?

Why should the announcement of the largest marine protected area in the world (140,00 square miles in the Northwestern Hawaii Islands Marine National Monument) merit such vapid reception by the public, press and ocean conservation movement, seemingly interpreted as little more than a superficial gesture affecting little beyond the livelihood of the few fishers who can no longer fish there?

Why does a nation with the largest ocean Exclusive Economic Zone, with such a huge reliance on the ocean for its economic future, not get beyond the recommendations to assume leadership through exemplary actions, particularly when the financial resources demanded are so relatively small and the capacity to execute is in hand?

I'm perplexed. What is really going on here? I'd be interested in your reasons why?