Ocean Currents » Christine Hopper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:45:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Diverse Stakeholders Deliver Unified Message to Congress and Administration: Smart Ocean Planning Makes Sense http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/27/diverse-stakeholders-deliver-unified-message-to-congress-and-administration-smart-ocean-planning-makes-sense/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/27/diverse-stakeholders-deliver-unified-message-to-congress-and-administration-smart-ocean-planning-makes-sense/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:15:04 +0000 Christine Hopper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10028

Stakeholders meet with Representative Kuster of New Hampshire (center)

Last month, 42 stakeholders from across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic came to DC to speak with Congress and the Administration about the benefits they are seeing from the regional ocean planning efforts currently underway in these regions.  Representatives from commercial fishing, offshore renewable energy, ports and maritime, shipping, undersea cables, recreational fishing and boating,  as well as research, education and conservation organizations, and more came together to deliver a common message – smart ocean planning makes sense.

These stakeholders met with 57 Senate and House offices, Senate Commerce Committee staff, the National Ocean Council at the White House, U.S. Coast Guard, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). In each meeting, the stakeholders  voiced their support of a process that gives them a seat at the table with state and federal government agencies to address management of their regional ocean resources and ocean uses.

The message was simple: ocean planning is moving forward and has real benefits to states and industries.  It provides a seat at the decision-making table for ocean users across the region and seeks to proactively identify ocean uses and resolve conflicts before they become problematic.   Anti-National Ocean Policy riders in Congress would undermine the ocean planning work that the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have already invested in; these riders are motivated by political agendas from outside these regions that have nothing to do with the practical, pragmatic work being done.

These 42 industry, academic, and conservation representatives outlined their individual interests in the regional ocean planning work, stressed the need for further collaboration among the group, and asked Congress and the Administration for their support  in ensuring regional ocean planning work moves forward unimpeded.

Ocean Conservancy supports coordinated ocean management decisions between state and local governments and ocean users to establish a healthier ocean and a thriving coastline.

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Fishing with Captain Monty (and Planning for the Mid-Atlantic’s Future) http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/12/09/fishing-with-captain-monty-and-planning-for-the-mid-atlantics-future/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/12/09/fishing-with-captain-monty-and-planning-for-the-mid-atlantics-future/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:58:15 +0000 Christine Hopper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9584

Our team at Ocean Conservancy is twenty-five nautical miles off the coast when Captain Monty Hawkins anchors the Morning Sun and we drop our fishing lines. We are lucky enough to be fishing for sea bass, easily one of the tastiest fish in the mid-Atlantic. Captain Monty specializes in precision fishing of natural, shipwreck and artificial reefs off the coast of Maryland. Once we get a primer from him on the ins and outs of catch limits and size requirements, we are off and fishing.

It is easy to see the lure of this magnificent body of water. Looking out onto the vast ocean, a sea turtle swims past the boat. On our way back to land, we are accompanied by dolphins and watch in awe as they surface in splashing trails nearby. What isn’t visible to the naked eye is that these ocean waters are a major economic driver for the region, sustaining a robust seafood industry, recreational fishing and tourism activities. The economic success of the region relies heavily on the ecological health of its ocean and coast, along with responsible planning for uses like commercial and recreational fishing, offshore energy, and more.

Unlike projects on land, the ocean is managed on a sector-by-sector basis and by a myriad of government agencies, often with little communication among them. This hurts both Ocean Conservancy’s and ocean industries’ ability to manage ocean use on a science-based and sustainable basis. Current and emerging ocean businesses often go through time-consuming, expensive and frustrating permitting processes by multiple levels of government. Without better data, coordination, and smart planning for sustainable use, growing ocean development can lead to conflicts and confusion. These issues threaten the food, jobs and recreation we rely on from our ocean.

The day before our fishing excursion, members of the public representing an array of ocean users gathered in Ocean City Maryland to address this exact issue. State, federal and tribal government representatives from the mid-Atlantic are leading a “Regional Planning Body” (RPB) that has begun to develop the region’s first smart ocean plan. Public stakeholders joined the meeting in Ocean City to discuss with RPB members their input on what that ocean plan will look like. Voices ranged from commercial fishermen, local surfers, charter-boat operators, and offshore wind developers who all gathered for a sit down discussion with the RPB members. Captain Monty was there too, talking about the value of the reefs we fished to the charter fishing industry and the need for data on reefs and fisheries to be reflected in the ocean plan.

Established in April, 2013 the Mid-Atlantic RPB has its eyes set on implementing an ocean plan by 2016. It is tasked with developing, along with stakeholder and public input, a plan with all the necessary data and information to support informed decision-making on ocean uses, and to help coordinate growing offshore usage while balancing and sustaining the ocean’s ecological health.

Whether or not there really are plenty of fish in the sea is up for debate, and as anyone who has fished will tell you, it depends on where you’re fishing. One thing is for certain however; there are plenty of ocean users competing for a finite set of resources, and their voices are hard to hear unless they are seated at the table together. Regional ocean planning provides a venue and a “common table” for this important dialogue between a wide array of ocean users and managers. We are excited about the opportunities for smarter and more sustainable decision-making that this process provides, and hope that with the help of a regional ocean plan, Captain Monty and we will be hauling up fish from the mid-Atlantic waters for decades to come.

For more information on upcoming opportunities for stakeholder participation please visit the following regional sites:

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New Data on Coastal Recreation Along the Atlantic to Help Guide Planning http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/06/new-data-on-coastal-recreation-along-the-atlantic-to-help-guide-planning/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/06/new-data-on-coastal-recreation-along-the-atlantic-to-help-guide-planning/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 15:15:11 +0000 Christine Hopper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9168

The Surfrider Foundation, in partnership with Point 97, The Nature Conservancy and Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute, has published the results of a recreational use study conducted along the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Almost 1,500 completed surveys were collected, which provided insight on where and how people spend their time along the Mid-Atlantic coast. This information, which is represented by the above image, shows just how extensively the region’s coastlines are used by surfers, hikers, swimmers, and other beachgoers, and these activities are not only a common pastime for many Mid-Atlantic residents, but also generate significant economic benefits for coastal communities and the region.

The study helps fill a longstanding data gap on recreational activities along the Mid-Atlantic coast.  This information will contribute to the ongoing regional ocean planning effort in the Mid-Atlantic, where the first iteration of a Mid-Atlantic ocean plan is on track to be completed by 2016.  The survey was done in coordination with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean and will be integrated into the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal and available for use by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (RPB) to create a plan for regional ocean management.

For more information, including the full report and state by state fact sheets, please click here.

 

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Ocean-Use Planning Moves Forward In Mid-Atlantic As Anniversary of Sandy Approaches http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/24/ocean-use-planning-moves-forward-in-mid-atlantic-as-anniversary-of-sandy-approaches/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/24/ocean-use-planning-moves-forward-in-mid-atlantic-as-anniversary-of-sandy-approaches/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 19:50:23 +0000 Christine Hopper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6682

As the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approaches, we are all reminded of the importance of being prepared. This is true for our ocean as well, and the Mid-Atlantic region is moving forward with marine planning efforts to do just that. The first meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body is taking place this week, on Sept. 24-25 at Monmouth University in New Jersey.

During this inaugural meeting, “marine planning” is a phrase that’s likely to come up often. Marine planning creates a blueprint for our ocean and shorelines that provides a comprehensive picture of marine uses and activities within a region. With an ever-increasing amount of ocean users looking for places to operate, coastal communities are seeing their most precious resource threatened by ocean sprawl.

This meeting will serve as an opportunity for citizens including wind developers, fishermen, recreational boaters and conservationists to join state, federal and tribal officials from across the region to start discussing the creation of a plan for the ocean and coasts in the region that encompasses a five state area, from New York to Virginia.

Now is the time for any stakeholders that care about what happens in this region to step up and get engaged. By coordinating with these different parties to create the best plan for all, the regional planning body can create a clear, public blueprint to ensure that the area’s marine resources and services are best used, while minimizing user conflict and maintaining long-term ecological health.

New England led the way by holding its first regional marine planning meeting last fall.  There, citizens were able to voice their opinions and concerns while making recommendations for balancing the multiple uses of the region’s ocean waters. Richard Nelson, the captain of the Maine lobster fishing vessel Pescadero, said “It seems to be a worthwhile process. I’d like to see more fishermen here and more opportunities for them to be engaged.”

The Mid-Atlantic is the second region to move forward with ocean planning through this inaugural meeting. On the agenda is determining a five-year timeline for regional ocean planning, including an approach, process and timeline for public and stakeholder engagement.

Almost a year after the Mid-Atlantic was hit with the second-costliest hurricane in United States history, many residents still working to rebuild are looking toward this week’s meeting with an eye of optimism. As professional mariner Captain William Broadley from the Delaware Bay region put it, “The plans we are making now will affect how our coastal areas will be used for generations to come.” This meeting is just the first step in a process that will strengthen natural coastal defenses, protect resources, promote job growth and continue the post-Sandy restoration efforts.

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