The Blog Aquatic » Jayni Rasmussen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 It’s Groundhog Day in the House of Representatives for Rep. Flores http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/21/its-groundhog-day-in-the-house-of-representatives-for-rep-flores/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/21/its-groundhog-day-in-the-house-of-representatives-for-rep-flores/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:03:41 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8789

Image derived from media by Columbia Pictures, Richard Cameron and Jeffrey Zeldman

One of my favorite scenes in the 1993 film Groundhog Day is when a melancholy Bill Murray is sitting at the bar with a couple of charming Punxsutawney locals and asks, “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?“

So, last week when I heard about yet another attempt by Representative Bill Flores (R-TX) and his fellow House Natural Resources Committee members to undermine smart ocean planning through a rider attached to an appropriations bill, I couldn’t help but think about that scene from Groundhog Day and laugh.  In the movie, Bill Murray’s character is stuck living out the same day in agonizing perpetuity. In real life, Representative Flores continuously attaches anti-ocean planning riders to any bill he can. Ten times these riders have been introduced in the House – but so far each one has either been stripped out of the bill by ocean champions or the bill has died altogether.

At least in Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character takes the opportunity of being stuck living the same day over and over to learn jazz piano, French, and all of the answers to that day’s episode of Jeopardy. I’m not sure what is to be learned by introducing the same – ultimately unsuccessful – anti-ocean rider ten times.

Fortunately for the rest of us who live and work in coastal communities, Representative Flores’ attempts to slow down smart ocean planning efforts aren’t working; Planning efforts are actually ramping up. As John Podesta confirmed last month, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions will be finishing their ocean plans by 2016. In fact, Flores’ opposition has served to throw a spotlight on the tremendous public support that exists for planning.  Hundreds of groups and thousands of individuals representing a broad array of interests including commercial fishing, engineering and consulting, recreation and tourism, renewable energy, academics, tribes, faith-based groups, NGOs, and everyday citizens have written to Congress in support of smart ocean planning.  Thanks to this support from the public and all levels of government, planning is moving forward.

The movie Groundhog Day doesn’t resolve until Bill Murray’s character changes his ways. Perhaps Representative Flores will change his ways, too, once he realizes that smart ocean planning is a bottom-up solution that benefits communities, businesses, and the environment.

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New Case Study Shows How Smart Ocean Planning Helps Put Businesses in the Fast Lane http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/02/new-case-study-shows-how-smart-ocean-planning-helps-put-businesses-in-the-fast-lane/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/02/new-case-study-shows-how-smart-ocean-planning-helps-put-businesses-in-the-fast-lane/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 20:45:52 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8690

Photo: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

This weekend, millions of Americans will head to the beach to celebrate Independence Day—and get stuck in traffic trying to get there.  But we aren’t the only ones getting tied up as we try to use the ocean: Businesses are too.  New business projects in any setting require jumping through some regulatory hoops, but projects in the ocean are notoriously more difficult to navigate. Unlike projects on land, the ocean is managed on a sector-by-sector basis and by multiple agencies (over 20 on the federal level, not counting states). Projects on the sea must often go through a time-consuming, expensive, and frustrating authorization process by multiple levels of government. For many businesses, this can mean months to years of time spent waiting instead of generating new jobs and revenue.

In a new case study released last month, Seaplan (an independent ocean science and policy group) looked at whether smart ocean planning can help.  They reviewed an undersea cable project in Massachusetts – where an ocean plan is already in place for state waters – and asked whether the ocean plan helped speed project approval.  After interviewing both the project administrators and government regulators, the answer was a resounding yes. Click here to read the full study.

Massachusetts was one of the first states in the nation to recognize the importance of smart ocean planning to help manage its coastal resources and promote balance between new and existing ocean uses. In 2009, the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan was adopted. The first project under the plan was a collaboration between Comcast and NSTAR Electric Company: the Martha’s Vineyard Hybrid Cable project. When this new cable—a hybrid bundling electricity with fiber optic cables—is finished, it will link Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard. The Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan allowed the Martha’s Vineyard project to be looked at comprehensively, so that regulators could streamline the permitting process.

So how exactly did smart ocean planning smooth out the process? Seaplan narrowed it down to three reasons:

  • Anticipation: When authorities developed the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, they used data and maps to make decisions ahead of time on which types of activities are best suited for certain locations. Because these decisions were already laid out, the cable project administrators were able to consider those decisions in project design. This clear direction gave Comcast and NSTAR the incentive to bundle their cables, therefore maximizing use of the space that the Plan dedicated for submarine cables.
  • Streamlining: To make smart decisions, the Plan utilized an online, interactive mapping tool called the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS).  Government staff were able to use this tool to easily identify potential impacts on the project’s suggested geographic area. Then, using siting standards laid out in the Plan,  they found an ideal route for the cable. This, in addition to the Plan’s requirement for higher interagency communication, drastically cut down the time spent by agencies on reviewing the proposed project site.
  • Protection: The Plan helps decision-makers understand where sensitive marine resources like eel grass exist so that they can avoid those areas when siting projects. And by combining the Comcast and NSTAR projects into one, the cable has a smaller footprint on the ocean floor.

The Martha’s Vineyard Hybrid Cable Project is just the first of many projects to come. It’s expected that as the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan matures, the benefits of smart ocean planning for both businesses and government regulators will increase.

 

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High Tide on the Hill: Stakeholders Ask Congress for Funding to Prepare for a Changing Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/19/high-tide-on-the-hill-stakeholders-ask-congress-for-funding-to-prepare-for-a-changing-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/19/high-tide-on-the-hill-stakeholders-ask-congress-for-funding-to-prepare-for-a-changing-ocean/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 23:00:42 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7824

Last week, I wrote about the benefits of coastal and marine spatial planning, or smart ocean planning. To make smart ocean planning work, decision-makers need accurate data on all the ways the ocean is used. Regional Ocean Partnerships coordinate with stakeholders and officials to collect this data. The Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and West Coast regions have already made this data publicly available through data portals.

The ocean economy supported over 2.6 million jobs and contributed $223 billion annually to the U.S. GDP in 2009. However, billions of dollars are lost every year as a result of changing ocean conditions, extreme weather events, and climate hazards that impact the many sectors of the ocean economy. Fortunately, the data that Regional Ocean Partnerships collect and share can be used by decision-makers to make smart planning decisions that promote the resiliency of coastal communities to these threats.

Congress will soon begin negotiations on the FY15 budget bill, and that’s why we’re asking legislators to appropriate $10 million to Regional Coastal Resilience Grants. These grants can be used to support the Regional Ocean Partnerships. With so much relying on our ocean economy and so much to be gained by preparing for coastal threats, $10 million for Regional Coastal Resilience Grants is an incredibly reasonable investment in our ocean future.

So, last week, Ocean Conservancy brought some of the stakeholders that represent our ocean economy to Washington, D.C. to talk to their Congressional members about funding Regional Ocean Partnerships. From offshore wind developers to fishermen, stakeholders already know how critical smart ocean planning and Regional Ocean Partnerships are to our ocean future.  Above is an awesome picture from one of our many great meetings – this is Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island with Bill McElroy of the Rhode Island Lobstermen’s Association, Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski, Sailors for the Sea’s Heather Ruhsam and Ocean Conservancy’s own Christine Hopper. Thanks for making Regional Ocean Partnerships a priority, Representative Cicilline!

How you can help

Are you one of the hundreds of millions of people that use our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes? Whether you depend on the water for your livelihood or your leisure, you deserve a stake in our ocean future. If you’re interested in keeping informed on smart ocean planning and how you can get involved, please contact Jayni Rasmussen at  jrasmussen@oceanconservancy.org with your name, your location, and why the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes matter to you.

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The Real-Life Shark Tank: Why Saving Sharks is a Good Investment http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/14/the-real-life-shark-tank-why-saving-sharks-is-a-good-investment/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/14/the-real-life-shark-tank-why-saving-sharks-is-a-good-investment/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 21:54:10 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7811

I may be an ocean advocate, but I have been terrified of sharks for my entire life. So, on a recent trip to Hawaii, I decided to finally confront my fear and signed up for an ecotourism shark cage dive. When I gathered the courage to lower myself into the cage, I immediately came face to face with a large Galapagos shark and was shocked by the sense that an intelligent being was looking back.

Its movements were smooth and graceful as it glided tranquilly past; its gray, sleek body standing in beautiful contrast against the cobalt blue water as I began a tremendous discovery process that would change my view on sharks forever. After such a personal experience, I came home needing to learn more about these animals I’d feared for my entire life. What I discovered was that not only were sharks in trouble, but surprisingly that their disappearance would deliver a serious cost to us as well.

Scientists estimate that 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year. What makes matters worse is that one-third of all threatened sharks are subjected to targeted fishing. This targeted fishing usually happens for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. In this process, fishermen catch sharks and cut off their fins, often while they are still alive. Afterward, they throw the animals back into the ocean, where they slowly succumb to their injuries. In fact, in addition to targeted fishing, habitat loss, persecution and climate change are all threats to sharks.

As a byproduct of all these activities, an estimated 25 percent of sharks and rays are now threatened with extinction, according to a recent scientific report. Like large predators on land, sharks affect all species below them by keeping populations and the food web in balance. Sharks are an essential player in the ocean ecosystem. Restoring drastically reduced populations could take decades for many shark species, because sharks generally grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over their long lifetimes.

The destruction of shark populations creates not just environmental degradation, but also economic cost. Shark ecotourism generates $314 million each year, a figure that is expected to rise to $780 million in the near future. Meanwhile, the landed value of global shark fisheries is estimated at $630 million per year, a figure that has been declining for a decade. In fact, according to a study by the University of Miami, a shark is worth about $73 a day alive, but a set of fins for shark fin soup is only worth an average one-time payout of $50.

In addition to the economic benefits though, shark ecotourism also allows people to form perceptions of sharks for themselves. By observing sharks in their natural habitat through scuba diving, snorkeling, cage diving and boat tours in a sustainable manner, people are able to see the natural beauty of these creatures. Of course, there are good and bad shark tourism operations, but if these companies genuinely work to minimize their impact on the environment, these dives can promote conservation through the educational experience.

“Only after seeing people’s reactions did I see what effect it had,” said Stefanie Brendl, owner of Hawaii Shark Encounters, a company that organizes shark diving tours. When people get in the cage, participants are generally fearful of sharks or just out looking for a thrill. When they get out, they have a newfound understanding and appreciation of sharks.

So many are afraid of sharks, when they should really be afraid of what will happen if they’re gone. If you’re wondering where you can start, I’d suggest participating in conservation-minded shark ecotourism by patronizing companies that minimize interference with the behavior of sharks. This way, you can discover these majestic sea animals for yourself like I did.

From there though, we need to take action. You should make a point to stop eating shark fin soup if you do, and restaurants should be encouraged to remove it from the menus to provide the pressure needed to halt this practice. People should also research the seafood that they eat and avoid eating fish from fisheries with a high rate of shark bycatch. Doing so may not solve the problem entirely, but it will significantly cut down on the threats to sharks.

The truth is it doesn’t matter if the context is environmental or economic; the world just can’t afford to lose 100 million sharks a year. It’s time to make a good investment: saving sharks.

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Effective Ocean Planning Needs to Be Coast-to-Coast, Not Beach-to-Beach http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/14/effective-ocean-planning-needs-to-be-coast-to-coast-not-beach-to-beach/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/14/effective-ocean-planning-needs-to-be-coast-to-coast-not-beach-to-beach/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 11:00:34 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7800

Over the last week, I’ve been discussing what coastal and marine spatial planning (“smart ocean planning”) is, what we would need to do to make smart ocean planning work, and what regions of our country have already started the process of making smart ocean planning a reality. In this last installment of our video series, I want to discuss the National Ocean Policy and what’s happening in the United States at the federal level.

Smart ocean planning is a bottom-up process, but it still needs federal support. Coastal states and the federal government each have jurisdiction over their own individual portions of the ocean, and the rules as you move across jurisdictions can both vary greatly and conflict with each other. Because of this, increasing coordination between state governments, the federal government and the stakeholders using the ocean is essential. Without a collaborative process that brings all the relevant players to the table, our decision-making will be disjointed and ineffective in ensuring a healthy ocean for our children and grandchildren.

The National Ocean Policy is the Obama administration’s attempt to foster as much coordination between the states, the federal government and stakeholders as possible. It provides a coordinating blueprint that takes into account all the moving pieces, and a support network through the National Ocean Council. States already work both independently and together on a voluntary basis, but collaboration with federal authorities, who have jurisdiction over many of the uses that occur in the ocean, is necessary to make the best management decisions. Regional planning bodies, now forming as part of the implementation of the National Ocean Policy, provide a venue for this coordinated planning.

For more information on what progress is being made on the national level, check out this short interview with Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, senior advisor to Ocean Conservancy:

If you can’t watch the video on this page, click here.

Read more blogs from this series:

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To Make Ocean Planning Effective, We Need Regional Coordination http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/12/to-make-ocean-planning-effective-we-need-regional-coordination/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/12/to-make-ocean-planning-effective-we-need-regional-coordination/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:30:32 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7731

Photo: Jupiter Unlimited

Earlier, I wrote about coastal and marine spatial planning and the tools necessary to effectively implement it. Today though, I wanted to discuss the regions and industries that are already putting these ideas to good use.

At the state level, Washington, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island have already created comprehensive ocean plans, and several other states—such as New York and several states along the Gulf of Mexico—are starting to do the same thing. This is a great start, but the ocean does not obey state lines. As a result, regional partnerships are essential in facilitating coordination between federal, state, tribal and local entities.

Thankfully, almost all coastal governors have voluntarily joined together to establish Regional Ocean Partnerships that connect state and federal agencies, tribes, local governments, and stakeholders to tackle ocean and coastal issues of common concern, such as siting offshore energy, habitat restoration, coastal storm mitigation and marine debris. While the priorities, structures and methods for these partnerships and this work differ to suit the needs of each region, they are collectively working toward an improved ocean environment and a stronger ocean and coastal economy. For example, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have very active partnerships that manage robust data portals needed to make informed decisions. In addition, both of these regions have new, federally sponsored regional planning boards that are working on smart ocean planning in coordination with the state-based partnerships. Other regions are also moving forward with collaborative ocean-use planning. For example, the West Coast recently launched its own ocean data portal; making these resources available to stakeholders is essential to the planning process.

It’s important to note that smart ocean planning is a voluntary process. No region is required to undergo ocean planning, and no decision-maker must follow the recommendations of regional planning bodies. The plans are simply tools to guide decision-making.

We have a unique and limited opportunity to make the long-term, coordinated decisions that will protect our ocean’s health for generations to come. When I check in later this week for the last part of this series, I’ll cover what will be needed to make this happen. For now though, if you’d like more information on what regions have started the planning process, check out this short interview with Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, senior advisor to Ocean Conservancy:

If you can’t watch the video on this page, click here.

Read more blogs from this series:

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For Ocean Planning to Work, Decision-Makers Must Engage Stakeholders http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/10/for-ocean-planning-to-work-decision-makers-must-engage-stakeholders/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/10/for-ocean-planning-to-work-decision-makers-must-engage-stakeholders/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 20:11:22 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7714

Advocates for smart ocean planning from around the country at our D.C. office before meeting with members of Congress

Last week, I wrote about how coastal and marine spatial planning (“smart ocean planning”) is an essential tool for making smart choices about the future of our ocean. In order to make those smart choices though, smart ocean planning requires gathering and sharing sound data to promote informed, science-based decision-making. Accurate data on all of the ways the ocean is used must be collected and compared. Decision-makers need as much data as possible to identify where conflicts exist and where they might emerge.

To accomplish this goal, state-based Regional Ocean Partnerships are coordinating the collection of these data and making them available to the public. In the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and West Coast regions, Regional Ocean Partnerships have already begun this process by creating “data portals”. These interactive, Web-based portals allow any user — from the general public to agency decision-makers —to compare maps of artificial reefs, recreational boating spots, whale migration paths, offshore renewable energy lease areas, commercial shipping routes and more.

Since smart ocean planning requires coordination among stakeholders every step of the way, input from all of those sectors is necessary for accurate and complete data collection. For example, the Northeast region recently engaged the recreational boating community by asking it to contribute spatial and economic data. The survey helped identify the waters that boaters frequent and revealed that in 2012, the recreational boating sector generated $3.5 billion and supported nearly 27,000 jobs.

These data now allow the needs and importance of the recreational boating community to be considered when decision-makers are determining how to best manage coastal waters in the Northeast. Furthermore, the more these data are shared the more we can ensure collaboration between government agencies and stakeholders that is needed for informed decision-making will occur.

This week, Ocean Conservancy staff members are joining stakeholders from around the country in meeting with members of Congress regarding the importance of the Regional Ocean Partnerships and smart ocean planning, and we would encourage you to do the same by contacting your representatives and senators to make your voice heard on the issue.

For more information on what is needed to effectively implement marine spatial planning, check out this short interview with Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, senior advisor to Ocean Conservancy:

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