Ocean Currents » national ocean policy http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Inspiring the Next Generation of Ocean Advocates to Leave Their Mark http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/18/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-ocean-advocates-to-leave-their-mark/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/18/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-ocean-advocates-to-leave-their-mark/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 19:39:07 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11937

Most college students like me are familiar with the all-too-common rollercoaster: late nights spent pondering the future, deciding how to leave our proverbial mark on the world. We feel weightless as the pieces of one puzzle seem to fall into place, but then watch miserably as those visions crumble, battered by new uncertainties.

But I have known of my purpose for years: to save the ocean.

Ever since I was little, I have found the ocean’s vast complexities intriguing. The ocean influences almost every aspect of life on our fragile planet—an awe-inspiring fact that is underscored as I learn more as a student of environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland.

Despite my passion to fight for the ocean, I have occasionally ridden that rollercoaster, questioning my capacity to make a difference. How can one individual really make a difference in saving the biggest entity on our planet?

I needed a healthy dose of inspiration, and quickly.

And inspiration is exactly what I received today at Ocean Conservancy, where I work as an intern with the government relations team. It was delivered by Representative Sam Farr of the 20th District of California, who has been a true champion of our ocean during his decorated Congressional career.

I listened in fascination as the Representative eloquently reflected on his ocean conservation journey. As a founding member of the bipartisan House Oceans Caucus, the Representative works to inform Members of Congress about topics from marine debris to ocean acidification. He has introduced robust ocean legislation and initiated the B-WET education program, nurturing the next generation of budding ocean enthusiasts.

The Representative stressed the importance of the individual activist’s voice, noting that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease…so we gotta keep on squeaking.” I am inspired to “keep on squeaking,” because the Representative’s tenure has taught me two significant lessons:

1. My generation is not starting from scratch–we are building on the strong foundation laid by Representative Farr and other ocean advocates. Ocean conservation is gaining ground due to the collaboration of Members of Congress, environmental nonprofits and other marine champions. Even whilst economic and international security issues dominate the political sphere, these trailblazers secure funding for ocean research, strengthen marine policy and expand environmental outreach: effectively giving ocean issues a vital seat at the table. Their dedication is lighting the way for others like me to follow.

2. Saving the ocean is in the best interest of all life on Earth. The beautiful thing about the ocean is that amid our growing differences, the ocean remains, reminding us that we are all intrinsically connected to everyone and everything. We breathe the same air, drink the same water, and live on the same globe–vital resources that are provided by the intricacies of ocean processes. There is no option to be or not to be a steward of the blue, because without it, we would be lost.

Congressman Farr retires at the end of 2016, but leaves a powerful message: “We need grassroots support to say our ocean is important. It starts with you.”

These are words that inspire me–and should inspire us all–to never doubt one individual’s capacity to make change. Rather, they are the words that keep us up at night, pondering not the uncertainties of the ocean, but the possibilities of saving it.

Thank you, Congressman Farr, for your inspiring legacy!

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Samantha Bingaman is an intern with the government relations team at Ocean Conservancy. She is a junior environmental science and policy major with a concentration in marine and coastal management at the University of Maryland, and loves to study and spend time on the coast.

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A Wave of Support for Ocean Planning in 2016 http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/07/a-wave-of-support-for-ocean-planning-in-2016/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/07/a-wave-of-support-for-ocean-planning-in-2016/#comments Mon, 07 Mar 2016 14:30:49 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11576

Photo credit: Nick Denny

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.

Over the past several years of planning efforts, we’ve seen sound science and strong engagement of ocean users, local communities, and state, federal, and tribal governments, come together to create a roadmap for better decision-making that will benefit both our environment and economy. Building from the ground up, regional ocean planning is advancing the way we plan for new and existing ocean activities, improving scientific understanding of important ecological areas, and increasing collaboration among decision makers in the US.

As the regions embarked on their independent planning journeys, they have hosted dozens of public meetings, actively encouraging transparent discourse while advancing the conversation with those who interact with the ocean the most, from fishermen to scientists, surfers to renewable energy developers and decision makers. The regions have produced innovative data products, assessments of the ocean environment and economy and more.  The result? We have significantly increased our understanding of the ocean and the way we use it and are now working to ensure state and federal governments utilize these products to make better decisions and to collaborate meaningfully moving forward.

This spring is a critical time for the planning process, as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic finalize their draft plans and release them for public comment. While in Congress a politically motivated minority led by a single member from a landlocked district in Texas launch unwarranted attacks on the National Ocean Policy and regional ocean planning, it is clear that now, more than ever, that these attacks directly undermine what local communities, ocean industries, states, and others want to see: the smart ocean planning all of us have invested in moving forward, unimpeded by partisan politics.

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Mid-Atlantic Moves Forward on Ocean Planning with its Regional Ocean Assessment http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/05/mid-atlantic-moves-forward-on-ocean-planning-with-its-regional-ocean-assessment/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/05/mid-atlantic-moves-forward-on-ocean-planning-with-its-regional-ocean-assessment/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 19:16:13 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11436

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.

Last week, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO), a five state partnership of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, met with the public to discuss their work on marine life and human use data, and previewed an ambitious and wide-ranging website on the vast natural resources and economically-important uses of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean, which contribute to the health and vibrancy of the region’s coastal communities. This website, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Assessment (ROA), is a comprehensive information resource developed to support the regional planning process, distilling key information on ocean ecosystems and the ocean economy into easily digestible summaries for decision-makers, stakeholders, and the general public.

Think of the ROA this way: It is like an executive summary for dozens of resources on the ocean, including the ocean data portal, distilling vast information sources in to easily understandable sections on the ocean ecosystem and economy. The ROA brings together the best available information on ocean ecosystem and ocean uses in the Mid-Atlantic, and is a gateway for even greater information sources. Paging through the website, you will easily find additional data sources, reports, and webpages ranging from ocean acidification to commercial shipping. Key data points are turned in to facts and figures, visually drawing the visitor in while conveying important information that will ultimately help guide the planning process and decision-makers in the future.

The ROA is a living document that will continuously be updated as additional data and information become available, and will remain a critical resource for a wide variety of users into the future. This is just one of many exciting products we expect to be released in the coming months, as both the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast prepare their ocean plans for completion by the end of 2016.  We will continue to update you here as the planning process continues and if you are interested in additional, more detailed information please sign up for our newsletter.

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How Our Ocean Scored in the Omnibus Spending Bill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/18/how-our-ocean-scored-in-the-omnibus-spending-bill/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/18/how-our-ocean-scored-in-the-omnibus-spending-bill/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2015 20:20:08 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11243

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. 

How our ocean scored in the omnibus spending bill:

  • More funds to tackle ocean acidification – The budget for NOAA’s ocean acidification program increased from $8.5 million to $10 million dollars annually. This will help fund science to better understand how acidification will impact coastal communities across the U.S. Acidification is impacting coastal jobs and communities as increasingly acidic water dissolves the shells of animals, spelling trouble for oysters, clams and mussels as well as the people that grow them. Increased funding in a tough political environment is a testament to the hard work of all the stakeholders, including you, that weighed in with Congress on the critical importance of addressing this threat.
  • First-ever Ocean Trust Fund – This is something that the ocean conservation community has been working towards for well over a decade. It finally happened thanks to the work of some tenacious champions on Capitol Hill and your support over the years. The existence of this fund has the potential to help work on virtually all ocean issues ranging from protecting marine mammals to climate change resilience. We need to find money to fill the coffers but this is a moment to savor. We achieved something that has taken our community a very long time to get across the finish line.
  • Stronger National Ocean Policy – We are celebrating that all of the anti-National Ocean Policy riders were struck from the final budget deal. The NOP encompasses dozens of programs across the federal government and enables agencies that focus on the ocean to work together. It makes no sense to weaken a policy that helps the government do its work.
  • Marine Mammal Stranding Network – Remember our action alert highlighting this program? Well, the good news is that we know that it was funded in the final deal, despite a risk that it could have been cut.
  • Red snapper disaster averted The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad “Scott amendment” that would have defunded and upended red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico was struck from the final budget deal. This is a major win, especially for the red snapper fishermen who worked tirelessly to defeat an amendment that would have been devastating for both fish and fishermen.

One area that raises concern is state boundary for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The omnibus spending bill did include some language changing the state maritime boundary for management of reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. This means big confusion and uncertainty for federally-permitted fishermen. And it means big challenges for those responsible for rebuilding this iconic fishery. The Ocean Conservancy team is already working on how to turn that loss around. Expect to see more on that in 2016.

All in all, we should be happy with the outcomes for our ocean. Of course our work is never done, but for this rather wonderful moment in time, please join me in celebrating what we have been able to achieve together.

What a great way to end the year – thank you!

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Moving Forward with Regional Ocean Plans: Update From the Mid-Atlantic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/08/moving-forward-regional-ocean-plans/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/08/moving-forward-regional-ocean-plans/#comments Thu, 08 Oct 2015 13:13:05 +0000 Amy Trice http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10844

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.

Overview of the Mid-Atlantic RPB Meeting

Key Materials Released

Key materials were released ahead of the September 22nd – 24th meeting in Norfolk, Virginia. Of particular importance are the draft RPB timeline and outline of the Regional Ocean Action Plan. According to the timeline, the RPB anticipates releasing a draft of its ocean plan for public comment in June 2016. Some of the work products under development also had new drafts released, and were major topics of discussion over the past few days including draft inter-jurisdictional coordination actions that seek to improve coordination among agencies and enhance ocean ecosystems, health, and interactions with industry.

September 22nd: Stakeholder Workshop

A key aspect of ocean planning is strong engagement of regional stakeholders and the public at large. Continuing their effort to provide a platform for strong engagement, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Council (MARCO) hosted a stakeholder workshop to discuss and inform the work products from the RPB. Key topics of discussion included data synthesis updates from the marine life, human use, and regional ocean assessment teams as well as review of the draft inter-jurisdictional coordination committee materials. The discussions that were part of the stakeholder workshop directly informed the RPB member meeting the next two days.

September 23rd-24th: RPB meeting

Building on the Stakeholder Workshop, the RPB agreed on components of the ocean plan outline, identified next steps for both work products and clarified overall next steps as the RPB gets closer to finalizing a regional ocean plan.  It was evident throughout the meeting that significant progress had been made since the last RPB meeting in January 2015.  As development of a regional ocean plan for the Mid-Atlantic continues, we look forward to reviewing and supporting the continued progress.

Ocean Planning continues elsewhere

Like the Mid-Atlantic, the Northeast RPB is deep into the process of crafting an ocean plan for the region.  The Northeast is several months ahead of the Mid-Atlantic in its process, and will be hosting a stakeholder workshop on October 20th where key elements of how the plan will be implemented will be discussed.

While we await the country’s first regional ocean plans, we are already seeing the benefits of ocean planning being done on the state level.  Rhode Island was the first state in the country to complete a plan for its ocean waters, and thanks to that ocean plan, the Block Island Wind Farm project became a reality in record time with significant support from Rhode Island residents and businesses.  We believe this is just a preview of the types of benefits that can come from making informed decisions in coordination with multiple stakeholders and planning smart for the future of our ocean.

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The National Ocean Policy Turns Five! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/19/the-national-ocean-policy-turns-five/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/19/the-national-ocean-policy-turns-five/#comments Sun, 19 Jul 2015 12:30:25 +0000 Amy Trice http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10513

Photo: NOAA

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.

Traditionally, the way we manage our ocean and address these concerns is through a single species, single sector or single-issue approach. We are often reactive to an individual conflict or development rather than being proactive about where certain ocean uses are appropriate. Making matters more complicated, there are over 140 laws managed by over 20 federal entities with jurisdiction over the ocean. The NOP seeks to address this challenge through ocean planning.

Ocean planning is a science-based process that gathers information on ocean uses and the environment and brings together stakeholders to plan for our future in a holistic manner.  This approach allows us to move away from the species by species and sector by sector management into considering the needs of ecosystems – the biological, chemical and physical needs of our ocean environment. For example, we can now start asking questions such as how do we account for all our ocean uses and their cumulative impacts on the environment? With ocean-related commerce generating $282 billion a year, how do we balance economic industries with the health and needs of our ocean? And, how do we ensure environmental resilience for long-term sustainability?

As you can tell, we have a lot of questions. Ocean planning is the key to answering them.

The NOP calls for better coordination of research and data to achieve our ocean management objectives in federal waters (out to 200 miles off our coasts).  However, each region has the flexibility to coordinate with the states and local citizens on its unique needs.

The regions currently conducting ocean planning are the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, West Coast, Caribbean and Pacific Islands. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are leading the pack on planning, and by the end of next year, they will finalize their first-ever ocean plans.

In fact, the Northeast recently released a draft outline for its ocean plan along with groundbreaking scientific data that will characterize the region’s ocean resources and marine life, and how humans interact with them. Additionally, an assessment that characterizes the natural resources, infrastructure, economy, cultural resources and future trends of the Northeast will soon be released and a similar assessment will be mirrored in the Mid-Atlantic. Also of interest to industry and conservation alike is the practical work being conducted to outline best practices for gathering public input to guide development in marine waters, an important concern for many citizens and businesses.

These are new and exciting times for our ocean. We hope you will continue to follow and engage in the ocean planning processes as they progress around the country.

Join Ocean Conservancy in wishing the National Ocean Policy a Happy 5th Birthday!

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Ocean Issues on Capitol Hill: A Q&A with Congressman Sam Farr http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/28/ocean-issues-on-capitol-hill-a-qa-with-congressman-sam-farr/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/28/ocean-issues-on-capitol-hill-a-qa-with-congressman-sam-farr/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 16:57:13 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10266

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.

     2. As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, how do you use the appropriations process to further awareness about our ocean?

In this era of cut, squeeze and trim in Washington, funding for the ocean is a constant target.  As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am in a great place to both fight for that funding but also explain to other members why ocean funding is necessary. Beyond those who represent a coastal community, few members of Congress truly understand how important the ocean is to our national economy. So my job is to constantly explain why ocean programs are important and then fight to preserve what little funding is already there. For instance, recently I fought to save the B-WET program that for many K-12 students is their only exposure to the role they can play in protecting our bays and watersheds. Reaching kids at an early age fosters a connection to the ocean that lasts throughout their lifetime. Fortunately, I was able to restore the funding to this important program and so we can inspire the next generation of ocean champions.

     3. Ocean acidification impacts coastal communities and their economies, what are you doing to address this growing problem?

I have been working with members on both sides of the aisle to introduce bipartisan legislation to tackle ocean acidification. The bill is finalized and we hope to introduce it when Congress returns next week. Scientists have already shown how harmful ocean acidification is to the shellfish industry. However, we still don’t have a firm grasp on the entire scope of the problem and the effects it will have on other forms of marine life. This bill is not just about solving the problem; it’s about saving industries like the shellfish industry or the tourism industry that is dependent upon beautiful healthy coral reefs. Our bill increases funding for the research into the problem but also helps shift the focus to ways we can mitigate the damage.  While we search for ways to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide going into the ocean, we also need to find ways to reduce the impact ocean acidification will have on our economy.

     4. The West Coast has recently kicked off a regional ocean planning initiative. How does this process help coastal communities?

In any coastal community there are typically a few dozen federal, state and local agencies that manage their own domains in the ocean. In the past, all of these groups were operating in their own little silos with minimal communication and practically no collaboration. That is dumb-dumb policy. Regional ocean planning as part of the National Ocean Policy finally brings everyone to the table and working together. More communication and collaboration will lead to better management of the ocean. Coastal communities will benefit greatly from this streamlined process because it removes all the confusion, allowing for smarter planning and use of the ocean. This increase in efficiency will also help save taxpayer dollars. It’s a win-win. We already see this happening on the East Coast where the planning bodies have been in place for a few years and it is now spurring development. That is what makes the Republicans’ constant attacks on the National Ocean Policy so frustrating, especially from those who only oppose it because it came from this White House. It’s about smarter more efficient government; not more government, and that is something both sides of the aisle should support.

     5. The Magnuson-Stevens Act has led to many successes in ocean conservation. Congress is now considering a reauthorization of the act. How would the bill in its current form change things on the water?

One of the favorite games in Washington is to give a bill a great sounding name and then have the bill do the exact opposite. We saw this in the past with legislation like the Clear Skies Act, which did nothing more than give a free license to polluters to keep on dumping toxins into the air. They call this latest bill the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act” and yet it does nothing to strengthen our fishing industry. Instead, the bill threatens the long-term health of the industry by eliminating all of the protections that successfully saved many species of fish. Thanks to the original Magnuson-Stevens Act, overfished stocks are at an all time low leaving an abundant stock for commercial and recreational fisherman. Only in Congress would you take a policy that is working great and toss it out for something this harmful.

     6. What do you see as the biggest obstacle our ocean face in Congress?

Congress right now is filled with too many short-sighted members — too eager to let partisan bickering deter from long term planning. I see it in the constant attacks on the National Ocean Policy and the attempts to deregulate or defund marine programs. The majority in Congress are quick to sellout the ocean for fleeting economic gains. They ignore the crash that always follows in those boom and bust cycles. This lack of forward thinking is bad in any economy but it’s even worse when you are dealing with the blue economy which is dependent on a healthy, productive ocean. Wall Street may recover quickly after a crash but coastal economies destroyed by polluted ecosystems take longer to bounce back and, of course, extinct fish will never come back. We need more leaders in Congress who can look further down the road than the next election. That will only happen if the public speaks up and starts holding their members accountable when they vote for these stupid policies. Change won’t come out of Washington it will only come out grassroots efforts. So if you love the ocean and want to help improve its health, I encourage you to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

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