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News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Why the National Ocean Policy Matters

Posted On April 17, 2013 by

Credit: DigitalVision

Superstorm Sandy’s coastal destruction, the Japan Tsunami’s drifting debris, BP Deepwater Horizon’s gusher of oil in the Gulf and the declaration of fisheries disasters in New England, Mississippi and Alaska have taught us that these calamities affect not only the health of our ocean and coasts, but also the well-being of our communities and our economy.  We also know that disasters, both natural and man-made, will strike our shores again.

Investing in our ocean’s health will help not only respond to future disasters, but also better withstand their impacts. Coastal wetland buffer zones in the U.S. are estimated to provide $23.2 billion per year in storm protection, and a single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of flood water or storm surge.  The levels the president put forward in his budget, including an increase to NOAA’s funding, are a step in the right direction

With the release of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan just this week, all levels of government, tribes and ocean-users can benefit from the increased guidance and coordination.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Regions can decide what they want – or don’t want – and what works best for them. Ultimately, a healthy and well-managed ocean and coast benefits everyone – industry, beachgoers, fishermen, divers and whale watchers alike.

Here’s why others say the National Ocean Policy matters to them:

Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development, LLC:

“Our business requires coordination on the local, state and federal level and listening to the views of affected ocean users. By engaging ocean users, and by providing data and information, the smart ocean planning described in the National Ocean Policy provides greater predictability, consistency and efficiency – in short, less time, lower risk and lower costs. For emerging industries like offshore renewable energy, it’s vital to know where things like critical fish habitat, shipping lanes and recreation hot spots are in order to avoid them.”

Edward Anthes-Washburn, Deputy Port Director, Port of New Bedford:

“Ocean planning is critical to the Port of New Bedford’s past, present and future.  The Port of New Bedford is the #1 valued fishing port in the United States, the premier staging site for offshore wind deployments on the East Coast, and a bustling commercial and recreational port.  We rely on strong and thoughtful strategic planning to balance those uses here in the port.  By the same token, comprehensive regional ocean planning is vital for all of our industries to thrive – without it, we risk conflict and chaos between uses.  More than providing a clearinghouse for information needed and collected by ocean users, ocean planning provides a forum and produces development options that make sense for all stakeholders.”

Paul Cooper, Vice President of CARIS USA:

“The more we know about the ocean, the better we’ll be able to protect and utilize its resources sustainably and reliably.  The National Ocean Policy helps ensure this happens.  The continued development and application of crowdsourcing ocean data and other ‘citizen science’ initiatives promotes efficiency and collaboration while strengthening our nation’s marine spatial planning infrastructure.  The engagement of the public accomplishes collection of data and outreach to users and contributors outside of the professions normally involved in sea surveying.”

Jeff Grybowski, CEO, Deepwater Wind:

“For those of us with businesses and livelihoods that rely on the ocean, the benefits of the National Ocean Policy are clear. The demand for ocean resources is growing by the day. Renewable energy, commercial and recreational fisheries and maritime industries, among others, are all interested in the same waters. Many times these areas intersect, and conflict between uses could result without sensible planning.  The release of the Implementation Plan moves us one step closer to creating smart plans to guide us toward sustainable ocean development.”

Nathan Johnson, Director of Environmental Affairs for the Ocean Renewable Power Company:

“As New England regional planning begins and methods to involve stakeholders are investigated, our project serves as a positive example of collaboration between existing marine users and new industry. In essence, we have implemented many of the principles of smart ocean planning and have shown its success. By forging an early path of engagement and through continued diligence, new ocean users can contribute to increased sustainability and vitality of coastal communities.”

John Hersey, ARGUS Project Manager for SURVICE Engineering:

“As part of the community’s efforts to develop and apply innovative technologies to the understanding of the world’s oceans, we are very encouraged by the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan’s goal of efficiently targeting Federal resources and delivering demonstrable results.  Crowdsourced bathymetry –  or water depth and the sea floor information – is one such technology that can contribute to this goal and further serve all of the Plan’s guiding themes.  As our company continues to develop this crowdsourcing technology, we will rely on the National Ocean Policy to help further our goals by sharing and coordinating with fellow ocean users.”

Captain John McMurray, president, One More Cast Charters, writing in The Hill:

“Recreational and commercial fishermen would indeed benefit from the National Ocean Policy. It would help us address all the factors that stand to jeopardize fish populations, from habitat destruction to water pollution. While ocean-use conflicts between industries like fishing and energy development continue to increase, the NOP will help us manage these conflicts by planning ahead to help keep, for example, energy plants off prime fishing grounds and unique habitat, so that all sectors can coexist.”

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A “To Do” List for the Ocean

Posted On April 16, 2013 by

Photo by Mattox. Creative Commons

Great news for anyone who thinks having a healthy ocean is a good idea.  The President’s National Ocean Policy Final Implementation Plan was released today.  It may not have the catchiest title, but since it’s essentially a “To Do” list for a healthy ocean and economy, it’s something worth getting excited about.

This “To Do” list includes over 50 action items related to making smarter use of the ocean and Great Lakes, both for conservation and the economy.  There are tasks related to protecting the Arctic, tackling climate change and ocean acidification, improving water quality and overall finding ways to better coordinate and manage ocean uses through data collection and monitoring, mapping and improved agency coordination.

Like most to-do lists, there are a lot of routine tasks, such as monitoring of temperature. There are also some ambitious feats on there. It provides the underpinning to cope with unpreventable and unpredictable events, like hurricanes and tsunamis, increased marine debris or rising sea levels.  This plan tackles many of those issues, and much more.

The National Ocean Policy is about making smart choices for a healthier ocean – which, in turn, saves money, time and jobs. The Implementation Plan shows that the policy is a realistic plan that recognizes the tough fiscal climate we’re in.  That’s why it emphasizes that these priorities can help direct the limited resources to where they’re most needed.

We’ve written before about the National Ocean Policy and what has happened so far.

Unfortunately we can expect some of the same critics to cry foul about this based on politics rather than the content of the plan.  Slowing down or blocking the National Ocean Policy could devastate services that many businesses and communities rely on. Congressman Markey once said that opposing the National Ocean Policy is like opposing air traffic control.

Our new CEO, Andreas Merkl, recently said,

“The ocean is at the very center of the key challenges of our time: how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. In every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate and protection of our natural resources—our ability to manage our impacts on the ocean will make the crucial difference in sustaining the resources that we need to survive.”

Approaches that look at the big picture, like the National Ocean Policy, are exactly what we need to rise to this challenge.

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Crowdsourcing the Ocean Floor: How Mariners Can Gather Valuable Information for Better Decision-Making

Posted On February 21, 2013 by

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.

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Want to restore ocean ecosystems? Involve people making a living from the sea.

Posted On January 29, 2013 by

photo by Richard Nelson

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?”

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Increased Maritime Activity Highlights Need for National Ocean Policy

Posted On January 8, 2013 by

This post originally appeared on gCaptain.

This New Year comes with new opportunities – as well as the potential for conflicts – in the open ocean.

In 2013, the US federal government will offer competitive lease sales for offshore wind farms in the waters off of Virginia, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Considering the impact these sites could have on existing ocean industries, like shipping lanes or port traffic, the need for coordination and collaboration is vital. The National Ocean Policy aims to address those concerns.

The Policy – which was adopted in 2010, with an implementation plan expected soon – provides guidance in making decisions that will protect the United States’ ocean, waterways and coastlines. More than 20 federal agencies and over 140 laws address our coasts and the ocean, often in competing and conflicting ways. The policy improves collaboration and coordination and empowers the states to have a greater say in federal decision-making.

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Praise for Science Champion, NOAA Chief Dr. Jane Lubchenco

Posted On December 12, 2012 by

Dr. Lubchenco (left) with Ellen Bolen, Ocean Conservancy’s Associate Director of Government Relations. Credit: NOAA

Dr. Jane Lubchenco announced today she is stepping down as administrator of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

We want to thank Dr. Jane Lubchenco for her tireless work to promote science, conservation and cooperation in all her efforts to ensure a healthy ocean. As the head of NOAA, she has led a forward-looking agency determined to preserve the ocean for generations to come.  We are confident she will remain a strong voice for science and conservation.

Ever a teacher, Dr. Lubchenco has been one of the most steadfast champions of science and the need for scientists to become solutions-oriented at a time when restoring scientific integrity is an urgent priority for the country. Under her leadership, NOAA renewed its focus on key ocean issues like ending overfishing, reducing marine debris, protecting the Arctic and tackling climate change and ocean acidification.

Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA were quick to respond to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring that the Gulf region, including the marine ecosystem, is restored. She was also instrumental in the creation and follow-through of President Obama’s historic National Ocean Policy Executive Order, which created a set of commonsense principles to protect important marine habitat, help clean up our nation’s beaches, and foster emerging industries and jobs.

We wish Dr. Lubchenco well in her new endeavors, and we hope that NOAA, and the rest of the federal government, follows her lead with a cooperative, scientific and ecosystem-based view to solving some of the planet’s biggest challenges. That also means it’s more important than ever that Congress provide NOAA the resources it needs. Superstorm Sandy was the most recent lesson in why NOAA is crucial — their tools, services and information can help us make better decisions to save lives and reduce the risks and costs of future disasters.

Air Traffic Control for the Ocean

Posted On November 16, 2012 by

Map of sensitive habitats off the coast of New England. Click for a larger version.

At a given time, our air is filled with thousands of planes intersecting each other’s flight paths in a coordinated fashion. The same is true for our ocean and its industries – and a new map shows just that. The New England Ocean Action Network (NEOAN), a group of organizations supportive of ocean planning, created the map to illustrate just how many different activities occur in the ocean – ferry routes, shipping lanes, sanctuary boundaries, fishing grounds, whale habitat and proposed wind energy areas, to name a few. Imagine trying to coordinate these uses so that they don’t all end up on top of each other or harm to the ecosystem on which they depend.

This coordination is one of the goals of the National Ocean Policy. Each of nine regions around the country will establish a Regional Planning Body (RPB), comprised of representatives from state and federal agencies, tribal members and the regional fishery management council. These regional groups will be guided by local stakeholders and the public and will work to create a plan to guide the various uses of the oceans for its member states. The New England RPB will be holding its first meeting next week – the first official meeting of any around the country – to begin the creation of a plan for its coasts and oceans.

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