This is a guest post from Richard Nelson, a lobsterman from Friendship, Maine
With a background as a lobsterman in the small midcoast town of Friendship, ME, I decided a couple of years ago to follow and become involved in those aspects of the National Ocean Policy that affect me as both a fisherman and concerned individual.
The goals of the planning, as set forth by the National Ocean Council, are to find ways to support sustainable ocean uses that contribute to the economy, while at the same time protecting, maintaining and restoring the ocean ecosystems. This would involve creating a regional plan to reduce conflicts among fishing, offshore energy, shipping conservation and recreation.
I am hopeful that this process will involve a group made up of oceanographers, fishermen, conservation groups, tugboat operators and others with either a tradition of, or aspirations toward, ocean use. The input of the federal officials, state planners and agency heads as well as the tribal representatives that are all official members of the regional planning bodies is certainly important, but it is critical that some form of direct participation is extended to those whose livelihoods depend on the ocean, such as me. Given that regional planning has the backing of most of the major conservation groups, the scientific community, ocean renewable energy and other industries, all seeking to start the process off in a somewhat similar direction, now is the perfect time and place to shape the format of the ocean planning process. We need to directly include stakeholders and make sure that they have a real seat at the table, rather than engaging in the old model of top-down management which would, in my mind, lead to a future of second guessing, protestations and eventually an “occupy oceans” mentality.
As we begin this process let us take advantage of the opportunity to start ocean planning off right. This is the point at which you might ask, “Well what do you suggest?”