The Blog Aquatic » cmsp News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:44:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Data on Coastal Recreation Along the Atlantic to Help Guide Planning Sat, 06 Sep 2014 15:15:11 +0000 Christine Hopper

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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Celebrating Capitol Hill Ocean Week with a Commitment to Finalized Plans and a New National Ocean Council Director Tue, 10 Jun 2014 19:30:12 +0000 Anne Merwin

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.

Second, Podesta welcomed Beth Kerttula as the new Director of the National Ocean Council. Kerttula comes with a wealth of ocean expertise.  Before joining the National Ocean Council (NOC), she was a visiting fellow at Stanford University Center for Ocean Solutions.  Previously, she served as Democratic Leader of the Alaska State House of Representatives and has over 15 years of experience as an elected official.  Her experience covers a range of ocean issues from coastal zone management to ocean acidification.

The NOC provides a blueprint and support network for implementation of the National Ocean Policy that is a common sense approach to foster coordination among states, the federal government and ocean users.

At Ocean Conservancy, we are excited that smart ocean planning is advancing on the east coast. We also look forward to working with Director Kerttula as she takes the helm of the National Ocean Council.

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To Make Ocean Planning Effective, We Need Regional Coordination Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:30:32 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen

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 Mon, 10 Mar 2014 20:11:22 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen

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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Ocean Planning Makes Sense Thu, 07 Nov 2013 21:49:49 +0000 Guest Blogger 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.


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?

In any case, here in New England, we have the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), which appears to be a regional version of the National Ocean Council (NOC). However, it was organized by the Northeast governors about five years prior to NOC, which was established under an executive order from President Obama and likely the genesis of the anti-ocean planning movement.

Many feel that this was merely an end run around the failed legislation called Oceans 21. Again, maybe it was, but that does not negate the need for some real thinking about how we use our ocean. Things such as renewable energy development, at-sea LNG terminals, pipeline construction, ocean mining, etc. are going to happen. In comparison to those industries, fishing doesn’t stand a chance. We would be road kill on the developmental highway without some controlling structure.

While I don’t happen to believe that it is enough, fishing does have some representation at the Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) level. This is through a representative from the New England Fishery Management Council sitting at the RPB table. Yes, fishing is just one voice among many, but without any representation, there would be no chance.

Recently, a coalition of marine interests including SeaPlan, representatives of the boating industry, New England states and the state of New York, U.S. Coast Guard and NROC conducted a survey titled Northeast Recreational Boating Survey. This effort was designed to get stakeholder input on how boaters use the Northeast waters. It was a very comprehensive survey that got input from 12,000 participants.

The survey shows the importance of boaters who generated $3.5 billion in economic activity. A much older survey conducted by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) indicated that 75 percent of all powerboats were used for fishing at some point. I don’t know if that holds true today, but it indicates fishing is still a substantial part of this economic engine. The take home message is that NROC is concerned about the recreational fishing industry and how it fits into the planning process.

I am also aware of efforts that are being taken to reach out to individual anglers to get their input into the process. These are being developed as this is written. NROC also has made an effort to include the party/charter fishing industry as well. If they had no interest in the fishing industry, I doubt they would make this level of effort to include stakeholder input.

While there are and will continue to be concerns about the whole coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) area, the idea that this is simply an underhanded plan to end all fishing just doesn’t carry any water (pun intended). As users we need to be involved with this type of planning and we need to try to make sure that our access to marine resources is not compromised.

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Advancing the Ocean Economy: Renewable Energy Fri, 21 Jun 2013 18:35:00 +0000 Guest Blogger

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 Thu, 21 Feb 2013 16:40:48 +0000 Guest Blogger

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.

Marine transportation contributes more than $742 billion to the U.S. GDP and employs more than 13 million people. The National Ocean Policy specifically calls out its importance. However, many of the 25,000 miles of inland, intracoastal and coastal waterways that link thousands of ports and harbors in the U.S. have never been completely surveyed. This means there are limited accurate charts that show sandbars, underwater obstructions and other potential hazards that could cause accidents.

In those areas that have been surveyed, approximately half of the depth sounding data shown on U.S. nautical charts is from before 1940, collected by antiquated leadline soundings and wire drags.  To survey the 500,000 square nautical miles of the most navigationally significant waters would require over 100 years based on our governmental agencies current capacity and using modern conventional methods.

The good news is that while few ships have a primary mission to collect bathymetric data, there are literally millions of recreational, pilot and tug boats, cruise ships and research vessels plying our waters and we now have the technology to enlist their assistance to efficiently contribute to the goals of the President’s National Ocean Policy.

This is where ARGUS™ — and maybe you! – comes into the picture. In 2010, SURVICE Engineering started testing ARGUS, a system that can use these vessels for the collection and processing of crowdsourced bathymetry data. ARGUS interfaces with existing GPS and depth sounding equipment on the vessels, and uses wireless technology (WiFi, cellular, and satellite) for automatic offloading to a centralized server. Here along with CARIS, marine GIS experts, the data is corrected, processed, managed and distributed via the internet to provide current water depths. To date, ARGUS pilot testing has processed more than 70 million crowdsourced bathymetry soundings.

Crowdsourcing data – that is, gathering information from multiple individuals – can significantly supplement and enhance the accuracy and efficiency of standard hydrographic surveying efforts conducted primarily by governmental entities. During initial trials in 2012 aboard the vessel National Geographic Explorer, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office nautical cartographers were “delighted with the quality” of data collected when compared to existing raster charts in Antarctica.

This image is the result of ARGUS processing in the shipping channel into the Baltimore Harbor, where the green dots indicate shoaling (shallower water than the rest of the channel) in the inbound lane.

Crowdsourced data using technology such as ARGUS will often be the only data available in an area because charting authorities may not have the resources or mandate to conduct surveys. Also, their larger ships may not be physically able to access the areas where smaller vessels routinely transit. While traditional surveys are done infrequently, crowdsourced data is being collected all the time and can provide up-to-date information. When crowdsourced data indicates areas of concern (such as illustrated in the figure below) the official ships can prioritize those areas, thus maximizing efficiency by saving valuable ship time and the associated resources.

The challenge is to ensure the reliability of crowdsourced data by managing and structuring the process to ensure that it is reliable, useable and accurate.  The patent-pending ARGUS system developed by SURVICE Engineering is one such reliable process. The compilation of multiple transits through an area will provide statistical confidence in measured depths even using the less-than-survey-quality sensors found on most small vessels. The CARIS software provides us the ability to manage multiple data sets and variable resolutions of those crowdsourced data. This is essential to our ability to use this data to create depth charts as well as to ground truth bathymetric LiDAR or satellite derived bathymetry.

In addition to collecting and processing bathymetry soundings, the ARGUS initiative is also processing water temperature data, and additional efforts are underway to integrate information about water quality and other environmental data that can similarly enhance our understanding of our waters.

As some Regional Ocean Partnerships start to compile and collect information (to ensure the safety and maintenance of current ocean uses and plan for new sustainable development while protecting ocean health) systems such as ARGUS can be used to collect essential information in a cost efficient manner. Any willing mariner can contribute to a better understanding of the waters they transit.

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