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Why the National Ocean Policy Matters

Posted On April 17, 2013 by

Credit: DigitalVision

Superstorm Sandy’s coastal destruction, the Japan Tsunami’s drifting debris, BP Deepwater Horizon’s gusher of oil in the Gulf and the declaration of fisheries disasters in New England, Mississippi and Alaska have taught us that these calamities affect not only the health of our ocean and coasts, but also the well-being of our communities and our economy.  We also know that disasters, both natural and man-made, will strike our shores again.

Investing in our ocean’s health will help not only respond to future disasters, but also better withstand their impacts. Coastal wetland buffer zones in the U.S. are estimated to provide $23.2 billion per year in storm protection, and a single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of flood water or storm surge.  The levels the president put forward in his budget, including an increase to NOAA’s funding, are a step in the right direction

With the release of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan just this week, all levels of government, tribes and ocean-users can benefit from the increased guidance and coordination.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Regions can decide what they want – or don’t want – and what works best for them. Ultimately, a healthy and well-managed ocean and coast benefits everyone – industry, beachgoers, fishermen, divers and whale watchers alike.

Here’s why others say the National Ocean Policy matters to them:

Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development, LLC:

“Our business requires coordination on the local, state and federal level and listening to the views of affected ocean users. By engaging ocean users, and by providing data and information, the smart ocean planning described in the National Ocean Policy provides greater predictability, consistency and efficiency – in short, less time, lower risk and lower costs. For emerging industries like offshore renewable energy, it’s vital to know where things like critical fish habitat, shipping lanes and recreation hot spots are in order to avoid them.”

Edward Anthes-Washburn, Deputy Port Director, Port of New Bedford:

“Ocean planning is critical to the Port of New Bedford’s past, present and future.  The Port of New Bedford is the #1 valued fishing port in the United States, the premier staging site for offshore wind deployments on the East Coast, and a bustling commercial and recreational port.  We rely on strong and thoughtful strategic planning to balance those uses here in the port.  By the same token, comprehensive regional ocean planning is vital for all of our industries to thrive – without it, we risk conflict and chaos between uses.  More than providing a clearinghouse for information needed and collected by ocean users, ocean planning provides a forum and produces development options that make sense for all stakeholders.”

Paul Cooper, Vice President of CARIS USA:

“The more we know about the ocean, the better we’ll be able to protect and utilize its resources sustainably and reliably.  The National Ocean Policy helps ensure this happens.  The continued development and application of crowdsourcing ocean data and other ‘citizen science’ initiatives promotes efficiency and collaboration while strengthening our nation’s marine spatial planning infrastructure.  The engagement of the public accomplishes collection of data and outreach to users and contributors outside of the professions normally involved in sea surveying.”

Jeff Grybowski, CEO, Deepwater Wind:

“For those of us with businesses and livelihoods that rely on the ocean, the benefits of the National Ocean Policy are clear. The demand for ocean resources is growing by the day. Renewable energy, commercial and recreational fisheries and maritime industries, among others, are all interested in the same waters. Many times these areas intersect, and conflict between uses could result without sensible planning.  The release of the Implementation Plan moves us one step closer to creating smart plans to guide us toward sustainable ocean development.”

Nathan Johnson, Director of Environmental Affairs for the Ocean Renewable Power Company:

“As New England regional planning begins and methods to involve stakeholders are investigated, our project serves as a positive example of collaboration between existing marine users and new industry. In essence, we have implemented many of the principles of smart ocean planning and have shown its success. By forging an early path of engagement and through continued diligence, new ocean users can contribute to increased sustainability and vitality of coastal communities.”

John Hersey, ARGUS Project Manager for SURVICE Engineering:

“As part of the community’s efforts to develop and apply innovative technologies to the understanding of the world’s oceans, we are very encouraged by the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan’s goal of efficiently targeting Federal resources and delivering demonstrable results.  Crowdsourced bathymetry –  or water depth and the sea floor information – is one such technology that can contribute to this goal and further serve all of the Plan’s guiding themes.  As our company continues to develop this crowdsourcing technology, we will rely on the National Ocean Policy to help further our goals by sharing and coordinating with fellow ocean users.”

Captain John McMurray, president, One More Cast Charters, writing in The Hill:

“Recreational and commercial fishermen would indeed benefit from the National Ocean Policy. It would help us address all the factors that stand to jeopardize fish populations, from habitat destruction to water pollution. While ocean-use conflicts between industries like fishing and energy development continue to increase, the NOP will help us manage these conflicts by planning ahead to help keep, for example, energy plants off prime fishing grounds and unique habitat, so that all sectors can coexist.”

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Five Reasons to be Hopeful About President Obama’s Budget

Posted On April 10, 2013 by

President Obama’s budget proposal for the 2014 fiscal year was released today, shedding light on the Administration’s funding priorities for the coming year. While the budget has a long way to go before it is enacted, here are five reasons that the initial outlook for the ocean is promising:

1. The overall budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would rise to $5.4 billion from $4.8 billion after the sequestration.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, it became clear that coastal resilience and planning for the protection of coastal communities is essential. NOAA’s habitat restoration and protection, and coastal resilience programs are key tools that we need to rebuild our coastal communities smarter and safer. Coastal wetland buffer zones in the US are estimated to provide $23.2 billion per year in storm protection and a single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of flood water or storm surge.

Sandy will not be the last major storm to hit our shores, and NOAA activities such as coastal mapping, storm surge modeling and forecasting and restoration can provide the data, tools and other items necessary for decision-makers to plan for long term resilience and reduce future disaster costs.

2. President Obama’s budget provides the tools we need to end overfishing

The commercial fishing industry accounts for $32 billion of the US economy, and the sustainable management of fisheries is vital to ensure the health of our coastal economies and ecosystems. NOAA has made great strides toward ending overfishing by establishing annual catch and accountability measures in all US fisheries. The president’s budget acknowledges the importance of these efforts and provides critical funding for core data collection, catch monitoring and stock assessment programs within NOAA that are crucial to ending overfishing.

3. The budget also supports investments that promote well-coordinated ocean and coastal science and management activities throughout the country.

Regional Ocean Partnerships connect state and federal agencies, tribes, local governments and stakeholders to tackle ocean and coastal management issues of common concern, such as siting offshore energy, habitat restoration, coastal storm mitigation and marine debris. While the priorities, structures and methods of each partnership may differ to suit the needs of each region, they are collectively working towards an improved ocean environment and a stronger ocean and coastal economy. The president’s budget supports these partnerships, in part because two new partnerships have been created in the Caribbean and the Pacific in just the past year.

4. The budget provides assistance in targeting the increasing problem of ocean acidification.

The rapid acidification of the earth’s ocean caused by uptake of CO₂ from the atmosphere is making it harder for some species, such as oysters, to properly develop via the formation of their shells. Furthermore, it alters a vast number of biological processes necessary for healthy ecosystems and the coastal industries that depend on them.

Scientists are rapidly expanding our knowledge of the impacts of ocean acidification, and the president’s budget funds the Integrated Ocean Acidification program at NOAA so it can continue to increase our understanding of this emerging economic and environmental threat.

5. President Obama’s budget supports ongoing efforts to deal with Marine Debris

Marine debris has become one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing the world’s oceans, beaches and waterways. In its various forms marine debris includes derelict fishing gear, plastics and trash. Marine debris causes wildlife entanglement, ghost fishing, destruction of habitat, navigational hazards, vessel damage and pollutes coastal areas. Research has demonstrated that persistent debris has serious effects on the marine environment, wildlife and the economy.

The debates over government funding will certainly continue in the coming months, but this initial proposal from the Obama Administration is a great start for the ocean. Funding aimed at programs that support ocean health benefit both coastal ecosystems and the economies they support. At this early stage, the president’s budget is movement in the right direction on ocean conservation.

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How the Sequestration is Bad for the Ocean

Posted On March 5, 2013 by

In recent years, federal budgetary concerns have loomed over almost every legislative battle in Congress. However, the sequestration that began on March 1st presents a uniquely ominous challenge by imposing drastic, across the board cuts on almost every government program.  With an ongoing debate on how to avoid the full implementation of the sweeping cuts, here are some impacts that such a steep drop in federal funding could have on marine conservation and ocean ecosystems.

The cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in particular could present significant harm to longstanding ocean conservation programs. In an immediate sense, they will force NOAA to furlough, or temporarily put on unpaid leave, up to 2,600 agency employees; amounting to almost 20% of the agency’s workforce. Furthermore, NOAA may need to cut 1,400 existing contractor jobs, while leaving an additional 2,700 positions unfilled.

These workforce reductions would leave NOAA tremendously understaffed to implement items like fishery stock assessments, which are essential to support effective fisheries management and the fishing industry at large. As fishermen throughout the nation rely on the accurate reports of NOAA scientists to avoid overfishing, this isn’t only an issue for marine ecosystems, but is a jobs issue that will negatively impact families nationwide.

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