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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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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Four Things the Election Tells us about the Ocean’s Future

Posted On November 7, 2012 by

As the dust begins to settle after what felt like a never-ending election season, Ocean Conservancy is gearing up for our policy work to begin again in earnest. Our approach isn’t about which party is in charge, it’s about finding solutions for a healthy ocean, wherever they may come from. Here are a few initial reactions and issues to be on the lookout for following the 2012 election:

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Nobody Benefits From Politicizing The Ocean

Posted On November 3, 2012 by

Ocean protection should not be a political divider. Mitt Romney has said: “Our ocean waters are vulnerable to unplanned development. We want to avoid a Wild West shootout, where projects are permitted on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.” Credit: Jason Verwey flickr stream

Over the past week, Hurricane Sandy has surged through the Caribbean and South Atlantic, slammed into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast and affected over 60 million people across the Eastern Seaboard. With the flooding of thousands of homes, power outages sweeping the region, and first responders diligently responding to communities’ needs, this storm serves as a stark reminder that environmental impacts are not confined to political boundaries.

Effective policy should not be, either.

This week, the Washington Post examined the fervent bullying faced by the National Ocean Policy over the course of this election year and its role as a battleground for polarized election-year fights. Critics attempted to block funding for its implementation, claiming the policy served as an executive power grab, lacking in stakeholder involvement and increasing in bureaucratic red tape. However, blocking implementation of the National Ocean Policy could restrict agencies already struggling to maintain services vital to the health of our coastal communities, and will exacerbate conflicts between interests competing for space in our nation’s waters.

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Offshore Wind: Not Only an Energy Source, But Economic Opportunity

Posted On October 23, 2012 by

Credit: phault flickr stream

Good news came out of Delaware today with the announcement that an offshore wind lease has been granted eleven miles off the state’s coast, serving as the first lease completed under the Department of the Interior’s ‘Smart from the Start’ initiative designed to responsibly develop offshore wind. And with the findings of a recent study, the emerging offshore wind industry has outstanding potential to not only strengthen our energy security, but create jobs and benefit the American economy.

A study conducted for the Atlantic Wind Connection confirmed earlier this month that large-scale development of offshore wind would create more than 70,000 jobs through the manufacturing, building, operating, and maintaining of massive turbines in the Mid-Atlantic region. With the 40,000 additional jobs needed to serve this supply chain, this adds up to over 110,000 new jobs created by the development of this nascent industry on the East Coast.
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