Do you remember how excited we were in June when a revolutionary set of maps depicting where marine mammals, fish, and birds are distributed in New England was released? Well, let’s just say, we were pretty excited. You can only imagine our excitement when the Mid-Atlantic released a similar set of maps this month, characterizing the spatial and temporal distributions for over 100 species in the region. This is a big deal.
Exciting new data was recently released for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal that provides decision-makers and ocean users with a greater understanding of commercial fisheries. Specifically, new maps show Communities at Sea that highlight specific ports, fisheries, and gear type that are important in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. These maps are based on the methodology developed by Dr. Kevin St. Martin of Rutgers University and are more than two years in the making.
In the past four decades, we’ve made meaningful progress toward ending overfishing in U.S. waters and rebuilding fish populations. And we have a little-known law with a long name to thank: the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the MSA, we’re sharing fishery success stories to remind us that the MSA is a keeper. Here are three species that have all benefitted from MSA regulations in the Atlantic (and don’t forget to read our other success stories from the Gulf!).
See all data layers for the five major human use themes.
Millions of people visit the ocean every year for recreational purposes, and millions more rely on the ocean as a primary source of daily income. From beachcombing and fishing to surfing and shipping, human use of the ocean is highly varied and surprisingly complex to quantify. As ocean conditions are changing, it is important not only to enhance our scientific understanding of ocean ecosystems, but to bolster our knowledge of how we as humans interact with it. In one of the first broad scale efforts to do just that, the Mid-Atlantic region recently released interactive maps with the best available information on areas of human use and relative intensity. These maps are the result of months of data synthesis and reconstruction from dozens of sources, presenting a fine scale and interactive overview of the varied intensity of human use along the Mid-Atlantic coastline.
Ocean planning efforts around the country are moving forward at a steady pace, with both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic scheduled to complete plans by the end of the year, and the West Coast now beginning its own planning effort. Support for the process is stronger than ever, exemplified by a new letter signed by over 120 conservation, community, and industry groups. This broad and diverse set of ocean users have stood up to voice their support for collaborative, regionally-based planning processes that are benefiting coastal communities, and to rebuke efforts by a politically motivated minority in Congress that continues unsuccessfully to try and halt progress made in the regions.
Ocean Conservancy has worked to support smart ocean planning in the US by engaging ocean users from dozens of industry sectors, the conservation community, and the public alike since the National Ocean Policy was announced in 2010. Along the way, we have seen strong engagement from a wide variety of ocean voices, incredible data portals, and exciting collaborative efforts among stakeholders. This year is a big year for ocean planning and ocean communities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: we will finally see the culmination of hard work and collaboration from individuals, organizations, governmental officials and more, with both regions set to release draft ocean plans in the first half of the year. While we eagerly anticipate the release of the draft ocean plans, we are beginning to see exciting work products come out, that help inform the public and expand upon our existing knowledge of our ocean ecosystem and economy.
The Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB), a collaboration among federal, state, and tribal partners along with other ocean users, is leading the nation in ocean planning efforts. Four years after its creation, a draft plan covering ocean and coastal waters from Connecticut to Maine is set for release in March 2016. This will be the United States’ first region-wide ocean plan, and a model for smarter approaches to managing our ocean.