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.
This holiday season, we at Ocean Conservancy have a lot to be thankful for. At the very top of our list is you—our members, supporters and partners—who make our work possible.
Thanks to your tremendous support (24,000 of you contacted your member of Congress in support of a budget deal that would benefit the ocean and another 10,000 signed a petition to President Obama in support of the National Ocean Policy) we saw strong outcomes for ocean conservation in the omnibus spending bill that passed House and Senate today.
This summer we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the National Ocean Policy, thanks to which multiple regions across the US have organized regional planning bodies (RPBs) to advance the goals of ocean planning. Leading the nation are the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic RPBs, which both anticipate releasing draft regional ocean plans in the first half of 2016.
In late September, the Mid-Atlantic RPB hosted a meeting in Norfolk, Virginia to update the public on their work over the summer and give an update on their outlook for the next few months. The Mid-Atlantic region is deep into the process of crafting a comprehensive ocean plan to cover ocean waters from Virginia to New York. This meeting included workshops and roundtable discussions that brought together members of the public, industry, government, tribes and more, seeking input on work products and guidance moving forward.
Today we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), which aims to protect, maintain and restore ocean health while supporting sustainable uses in our oceans.
Healthy, productive oceans and coasts contribute significantly to our quality of life and to our economy. To maintain ecosystems that flourish, we are faced with complex challenges that the NOP is working to address. Across the nation, traditional industries, such as shipping, are expanding and new industries, such as offshore wind energy, are emerging where existing industries, like fishing, have been active for generations. In addition, stressors such as increased development along our coasts, ocean acidification, and sea level rise threaten ocean health.
Ocean Conservancy engages with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to benefit and protect our ocean and its wildlife. Congressman Sam Farr, founder and chair of the House Oceans Caucus, has championed legislation to protect the ocean and fought against legislation threatening the ocean during his 23 years in Congress. Farr is California’s Central Coast longest serving member — a district that includes the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the majestic Big Sur coastline. So it isn’t surprising that Farr is known for his passion for the ocean. He uses his position as a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee to bolster the nation’s land and ocean resources. We spoke with Farr recently about ocean issues in Washington.
1. You’ve always been a champion of the ocean in Congress, where does your passion come from?
After school when I was a young kid, I spent my evenings exploring the tidal pools along the shores of the Monterey Bay. I was fascinated by all the different species that would be in those pools and wanted to learn everything I could about them. What started as childhood curiosity eventually turned into a lifelong passion. In high school, I had a biology teacher that inspired me and so upon graduating, I left for college planning on becoming a biology teacher. Life had a different plan. I joined the Peace Corps after hearing President Kennedy’s call to action and that was the beginning of my public service career. Serving in office at the local, state and now federal level, helped me gain a better understanding of how dependent we are on the ocean for our health and livelihood. When I came to Congress 23 years ago, I made it my mission to help raise awareness and be an advocate for our greatest natural resource.
Last Friday the White House released a report on the accomplishments of the National Ocean Policy (NOP). The NOP set forth a vision to ensure our oceans and coasts are healthy and resilient, and implements the recommendations of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to improve federal coordination and effectiveness in managing our ocean resources.
“The accomplishments of the National Ocean Policy reflect the tremendous momentum we’ve seen from the Administration to address the most pressing issues facing our ocean and coastal communities,” said Ocean Conservancy’s Director of Ocean Planning Anne Merwin. “Businesses as diverse as shipping and maritime, commercial fishing, recreation, and conservation groups have all expressed their strong support for smart management of our ocean, because of the real, practical, and local benefits they are seeing thanks to this important work.”
Stakeholders meet with Representative Kuster of New Hampshire (center)
Last month, 42 stakeholders from across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic came to DC to speak with Congress and the Administration about the benefits they are seeing from the regional ocean planning efforts currently underway in these regions. Representatives from commercial fishing, offshore renewable energy, ports and maritime, shipping, undersea cables, recreational fishing and boating, as well as research, education and conservation organizations, and more came together to deliver a common message – smart ocean planning makes sense.