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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

To Make Ocean Planning Effective, We Need Regional Coordination

Posted On March 12, 2014 by

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.

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For Ocean Planning to Work, Decision-Makers Must Engage Stakeholders

Posted On March 10, 2014 by

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.

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Ocean Planning Makes Sense

Posted On November 7, 2013 by

Two men fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Photo: Tom McCann / Ocean Conservancy

The piece below was excerpted from an article by Rip Cunningham on the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) Blog. Cunningham is the former chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council. He is also Conservation Editor for Saltwater Sportsman magazine, of which he was publisher and editor-in-chief for 31 years. 

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.

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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?

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Advancing the Ocean Economy: Renewable Energy

Posted On June 21, 2013 by

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.

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Crowdsourcing the Ocean Floor: How Mariners Can Gather Valuable Information for Better Decision-Making

Posted On February 21, 2013 by

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.

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Why You Wanna Bully the Ocean?

Posted On May 10, 2012 by

Credit: Niklas Hellerstedt flickr stream

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.

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