Here in Washington, DC we are celebrating Capitol Hill Ocean Week just on the heels of World Oceans Day. As part of the celebration, White House Counselor John Podesta made two key announcements in his opening keynote address. First, an exciting official confirmation that smart ocean plans will be finished by 2016 in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic – spanning the ocean from Maine to Virginia. This important work by the Regional Planning Bodies is a landmark that will help coastal communities and businesses thrive.
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.
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.
While the piece expresses concern about some aspects of ocean-use planning, it makes a formidable case for the need to engage in it. Ocean Conservancy believes that smart ocean planning is important for balancing all of the interests in our ocean, so we welcome this kind of discussion.
I know that some in the recreational fishing industry think that “ocean planning” is part of the great conspiracy to totally eliminate extractive activities like recreational or commercial fishing. They feel that this process is simply “ocean zoning” intent on removing fishing.
Maybe it is and I am just too naive to see it, but there are too many signs pointing in other directions. First, I don’t believe in the great conspiracy theory, and secondly, I think that doing some real planning makes a whole lot of sense, and I understand that in that process there will be winners and losers.
The best description, in my opinion, of how ocean planning should work is found on Sea Plan’s, an independent ocean planning policy group, website: “Coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) aims to distribute and accommodate both traditional and emerging ocean activities to produce sustainable economic and social benefits while minimizing spatial conflicts and environmental impacts. CMSP is an iterative process that uses the best available science along with stakeholder input to support integrated, adaptable and forward-looking ocean management decision-making.”
The part of the process that I find objectionable is the building of more bureaucracy to complete this task. There are already agencies at the federal, regional and state level that deal with these issues. Do we need several layers of bureaucracy just to get these organizations to play in the sandbox together?
This is a guest blog post from Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Coastal Resources Center and Director of Extension Programs for Rhode Island Sea Grant. It is part of an ongoing video series on the value of smart ocean planning.
The film is the second in our series and introduces offshore renewable energy issues as they relate to ocean planning, and shows how coastal communities in the U.S. and overseas are turning to these resources, such as wind power, to support jobs and industries.
Sea Tow vessels in Coastal New Jersey (left) and expeditionary cruise ships in Antarctica (right) provide insights where survey data or official charts do not exist.
This is a guest post from Paul Cooper, Vice President of CARIS USA and John Hersey, ARGUS Project Manager for SURVICE Engineering:
How is one sailboat captain helping improve maritime safety for all cargo ships and commercial fishermen?
By providing data to develop more detailed up-to-date, even up-to-the-minute, nautical charts.
As our demands for the use of the ocean increase, including for marine transportation, you might be surprised to learn that the most basic information for any mariner — bathymetry (or information about water depth and the sea floor) — is incomplete and outdated in many areas.
If a large metal object fell from a truck onto a road, we would notice it immediately. Yet if this occurred in a waterway, it might not be apparent until the object was struck by a ship, as happened in 2004 when a submerged anchor, not indicated on any charts, punctured the hull of the tanker Athos I and caused an oil spill in the Delaware River.
Almost overnight, an annual spending bill that should be a routine affair has become a smorgasbord of rollbacks of ocean protections. The House of Representatives is currently voting on an appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice and Science. Going into debate, President Obama was already concerned that funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wasn’t going to be high enough to allow the agency to fulfill its vital mission, but on the floor of the House, Representatives aren’t satisfied with taking the ocean’s lunch money and are going for some more serious bullying.
First and foremost is the blocking of any and all attempts to better coordinate how the government both uses and protects the ocean. Congressman Flores of Texas introduced an amendment that blocks implementation of the National Ocean Policy which at its heart simply encourages better coordination for all the things we do in the ocean. Blocking it could devastate services many businesses and communities rely on. Congressman Markey said that opposing the National Ocean Policy is like opposing air traffic control.