Last month, a collection of maps representing one of the largest known efforts to assemble and disseminate spatial data for multiple species of marine life was released in New England. This powerful new information database characterizes over 150 marine species through map based visualizations.
These data enhance our fundamental understanding of marine species and where they exist in the ocean, bringing us a step closer to a more comprehensive assessment of marine resources. In the end, the goal is to better inform decision-makers who are tasked with improving ocean ecosystems and enhancing our ocean economy.
The Northeast Ocean Plan, the nation’s first regional ocean plan was released this week and is now open for public comment through July 25. See Ocean Conservancy’s press release here.
This plan is the culmination of four years of work by state and federal agencies, tribes, the Fishery Management Council, stakeholders and the public. New England has led the nation on collaborative ocean management since 2005 when it formed the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), the country’s first regional ocean partnership. In 2010, the issuance of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy opened the door for New England to create the Northeast Regional Planning Body (whose work NROC supports), and to move forward with regional ocean planning. The release of the draft plan this week is a major step towards more coordinated, science-based, and stakeholder-informed ocean management. It results in better data and information on a wide range of ocean uses and resources, improved communication and coordination amongst the twenty plus state and federal agencies with jurisdiction in the ocean, and decision-making processes that better engage stakeholders and ocean users. All with the goal of advancing ocean health and growing local economies.
What do lobster fishermen, recreational boaters, research scientists, family aquaculture businesses and renewable energy developers have in common? They’ve all pulled up a chair at a common table to address important decisions being made about our ocean, through a process called ocean planning.
Last week, nearly 30 ocean users from five coastal, New England states came to Washington, D.C., to talk about the Northeast regional ocean plan with Members of Congress and the National Ocean Council at the White House.
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.
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.