Ocean Currents » ocean planning http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Jul 2016 16:57:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Mid-Atlantic Ocean Users Tell Congress to Support the New Ocean Action Plan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/26/mid-atlantic-ocean-users-tell-congress-to-support-the-new-ocean-action-plan/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/26/mid-atlantic-ocean-users-tell-congress-to-support-the-new-ocean-action-plan/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 19:17:06 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12514

What do recreational fishermen, research scientists, commercial shipping representatives, conservationists and renewable energy developers have in common? They’ve all come together at a common table to address important decisions being made about our ocean thanks to ocean planning.

Two weeks ago, over 20 ocean users from the five Mid-Atlantic states came to Washington, D.C., to talk about the recently released Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan with Members of Congress and the National Ocean Council at the White House.

These individuals came to D.C. with a simple message: the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan was released July 5th, and it will provide real benefits to our ocean, the states, and ocean industries. It offers a seat at the decision-making table for ocean users across the region and seeks to proactively identify ocean uses and resolve conflicts before they become problematic. They asked members of Congress to support the plan, and to support their respective industries’ roles in the planning process.

Over the course of two days, these ocean users met with 36 members of Congress and the National Ocean Council to talk about the benefits smart ocean planning has brought to the region and will continue to bring. This visit was a celebration of the hard work the region has put in to the planning process, and also a chance to discuss with federal leaders the significance of this ocean plan. They requested support for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan and the efforts of ocean users like themselves who have been invested in this collaborative process with the goal of making better, more informed ocean use decisions.

What did the Participants Have to Say?

What were some of the takeaways for the people who came down from the region, and what does planning mean to different ocean sectors? Check out what some of the individuals that attended the D.C. fly-in last week had to say:

“It used to be that if we wanted to address an issue we, as fishermen, had to go to each agency individually: Coast Guard, Department of Defense, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and often we were left out of discussions. Ocean planning gives us a platform to participate in these discussions—this is an absolutely wonderful idea. We’ll be able to comment early in the process on vital issues regarding fishing and habitat. We’ll be able to address emerging issues such as the impacts of climate change on fishing and sand mining.”

— Jeff Deem, a recreational fisherman who serves on the Stakeholder Liaison Committee with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body.

“Before ocean planning the recreational boating industry was ‘invisible’ to state and federal resource managers. But we represent 185,000 registered recreational boats in Maryland. When I was learning to sail in the Chesapeake a container ship captain once told me your little sailboat is invisible to me, don’t get close to me because I can’t see you. As a recreational fisherman you may have an idea where you want to fish that day, but the fish move, so the recreational boats move. Having this one-stop-shop data portal is vital because we can see where the ships are going.”

— Susan Zellers, Executive Director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland

“Ocean planning is the most efficient and cost-effective platform for balancing commerce and conservation. It provides stakeholders an opportunity to identify their use of the ocean common grounds, while seeing how other uses might impact their activity.  Through ocean planning, any potential conflicts can be identified and diffused.”

— Carleen Lyden-Kluss, Executive Director of New York Maritime, Inc.

“Ocean planning is good business. What any business investor looks for is a way of reducing risk and increasing the probability that the project will go through. Ocean planning brings stakeholders together and reduces risks and increases certainty. We know we’re not the only kid on the block. We are committed to siting windfarms responsibility. We want to share our project plans and data, vet and test projects before other ocean users. We want their feedback. Ocean planning gives us the forum to do that.”

— Paul Rich, Director of Project Development at U.S. Wind

“Commercial shipping is undergoing an extremely dynamic period of change. We’re seeing global market fluctuation, larger ships, regulation, and growing commerce coupled with port and canal expansions. All these influences combined continually change routes and operations. Our members value ocean planning because it gives them a voice in decision-making and the opportunity to work together through agency commitments outlined in the ocean plans. We have already seen the benefits of this collaboration in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.”

— Sean Kline, Director of Maritime Affairs at the Chamber of Shipping of America.

What’s Next?

On July 5th, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (RPB) released the draft Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan. They will welcome comments for 60 days, through September 6th. We encourage you to check out our blog on the plan release, and read through the plan for yourself! If you are inspired, we also encourage you to submit your comments on the plan.

Learn more about the Mid-Atlantic ocean planning process at the RPB’s website and their Regional Ocean Assessment, a great resource they put together during the planning process.

 

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New Ocean Plan is History in the Making http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/18/new-ocean-plan-is-history-in-the-making/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/18/new-ocean-plan-is-history-in-the-making/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 13:32:37 +0000 Anne Merwin http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12410

The summer sizzle has arrived and I have some hot news to share with you: The nation’s first regional ocean plan was just released in New England! This plan is a huge win for the Atlantic Ocean and everything that lives in it.

I couldn’t be more excited about this news!! But, I need your help to make sure the plan turns into real action on the water and not just words on a paper. Will you take action today?

I depend on an organized plan to help me get through a busy day—it’s the same with the ocean (and quite a bit more important)! We need a smart ocean plan to help organize and balance the many ocean uses like shipping, fishing and recreation—all while keeping marine ecosystems healthy and in balance. It’s a lot to organize!! But, this ocean plan is more than up to the task.

But time is running out! The comment period is only open until July 25, so you must add your voice now!

From its sandy beaches to kelp forests, New England is a beautiful and diverse environment home to thousands of marine species. But there are changes occurring; some we can see, and some we can’t. As our natural ecosystem changes, how we use the ocean changes, too. That makes this ocean plan and sound management more critical than ever.

Summer is slipping by fast—and so is this comment period! Don’t miss out. Can I count on your help today to tell the Regional Planning Body that you support their work on smart ocean planning.

The plan is a huge stride towards smarter ocean planning—a process that benefits both the ocean environment and communities that rely on a healthy ocean for enjoyment and their livelihoods.

Thank you so much for your help.

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Trove of Marine Life Data Released in the Northeast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/23/trove-of-marine-life-data-released-in-the-northeast/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/23/trove-of-marine-life-data-released-in-the-northeast/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 19:54:43 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12336

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 New England Ocean Ecosystem

Off the coast of New England lies a beautiful and complex ocean ecosystem. From sandy beaches to kelp forests to deep sea corals, this region is home to thousands of marine species, many endemic to the coastal and marine habitats that range from Connecticut to Maine. The habitat is shaped by the cold, nutrient rich waters circulating around the Gulf of Maine, and the warm influence of the South Atlantic brought north via the Gulf Stream. New England also boasts a huge array of underwater physical features, like mountains and canyons, that influence the biological diversity we cherish so dearly.

However, there are changes occurring in the waters of New England and the culture around it.

From ocean acidification to sea level rise to warming waters, we are seeing rapid changes in ecosystems as a whole, as well as individual species distribution and abundance. Native species are moving north or heading offshore to cooler, deeper waters, while non-native species are extending their ranges into New England from regions in the south as a result of the same warming trends. As ecological communities are shifting, so too are maritime communities that depend upon them for their livelihoods and enjoyment.

The Data: Marine Life & Habitat Characterization

Understanding the distribution and abundance of species, and their interactions with one another and their environment, is critical for better management and sound decision-making. However, our baseline understanding of the marine ecosystem has significant gaps.  To get a more holistic picture of what is going on in our ocean, we need better data. This is especially true at a regional scale.

In response to these data gaps, a group of over 80 regional scientists and managers, with input from the public, have begun to tackle this problem head on.

Through the Northeast regional ocean planning process, scientists participating in the Marine Life Data Assessment Team have focused their attention on enhancing marine life and habitat data; spatially characterizing the mammals, birds, fish, and habitat types of New England’s coastal and marine waters using complex models.

Some of the amazing information provided for the public to view and utilize include:

  • Individual species mapscharacterizing the distribution and abundance/ biomass of:
  • Physical and Biological Habitat maps, characterizing sediment grain type, size, and stability, surface and bottom currents and temperature, primary productivity, wetlands, shellfish habitat, and more.

In addition to individual species and habitat maps, the research team has begun synthesizing information to delineate diversity, species richness, total abundance, and core abundance areas for groups of species that share regulatory, ecological, and stressor-sensitivity characteristics. For example:

  • Regulatory and Conservation Priority Groups: To aid decision-makers, researchers grouped species based on various existing authorities such as Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
  • Ecologically and Biologically Grouped Species: By grouping species based on their life histories, trophic level, spatial distribution, and habitat requirements, these data products can help reveal underlying ecosystem processes that drive observed marine life patterns.
  • Stressor-Sensitivity Based Species Groups: Many species can be affected by a range of human use or environmental stressors. By grouping species based on specific stressors, such as sound frequency (whales) and sensitivity to collision with offshore wind farms (birds), these products can inform important offshore permit applications.

These maps and related information are just the beginning, and scientists are working to finalize all the information available online through peer and public review. Future iterations of the ocean plan could improve upon these data layers and their components to help inform comprehensive ecosystem-based management.

Understanding the limitations of our current understanding of marine life and habitat in the region, the Northeast RPB has identified a range of science and research priorities to begin addressing critical data gaps. To address such priorities, there is an entire chapter in the draft NE ocean plan devoted to laying out a research agenda, identifying key areas of focus to enhance our current database, and expanding upon the work that has already been done.

New England has gained a wealth of new scientific information and data products and has many exciting opportunities for new, regionally-relevant research which are specifically called out by regional scientists and managers as areas of high priority.

We encourage you to read the plan and explore the data for yourself!

thumbnail_Humpback-Whale-Blog (1) American-Lobster-Blog Great-Shearwater-blog Herring-Gull-blog North-Atlantic-Right-Whale-Blog Northern-Gannet-Blog Scallop-Blog ]]>
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The Northeast Ocean Plan Sails towards a New Era for Ocean Management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/27/the-northeast-ocean-plan-sails-towards-a-new-era-for-ocean-management/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/27/the-northeast-ocean-plan-sails-towards-a-new-era-for-ocean-management/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 15:06:23 +0000 Anne Merwin http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12166

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.

So what does this plan mean for you as an ocean user?  Traditionally, ocean management was done on a sector-by-sector basis, with scant attention paid to the impacts a project would have on other uses until well into the project development process.  Too often, it was up to an ocean user, such as a recreational fisherman or a conservationist, to keep abreast of proposed developments like wind farms and dredging projects and to ensure new projects wouldn’t have a negative impact on the things they care about.  Essentially, the onus was on the ocean user to make sure that federal and state agencies knew about them, to put themselves ‘in the room’.  Ocean planning inverts that.

Thanks to the plan’s stakeholder-driven approach, the development of a public data portal with unique information describing how and where people and animals use the ocean, plus agency commitments to involve stakeholders and use their data, the responsibility is on the agency and decision-makers to make sure that what they’re doing has the least amount of impact to the interests and livelihoods of ocean users and the environment. With the Regional Ocean Plan and the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, ocean users like you are automatically put in the room.

We’ll continue to post more information about the specifics of the plan over the coming weeks, such as our latest blog describing the revolutionary marine life data that was released with the plan. Follow the links below for more information:

Read and comment on the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan here

Consider attending one of nine public meetings, if you’re in New England.

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Ocean Planning Brings a Taste of New England to Washington, D.C. http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/ocean-planning-brings-a-taste-of-new-england-to-washington-d-c/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/ocean-planning-brings-a-taste-of-new-england-to-washington-d-c/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 11:00:43 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12093

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.

These stakeholders came to D.C. with a simple message: with the Northeast on the cusp of releasing the nation’s first ocean plan on May 25, ocean planning is moving forward and provides real benefits to our ocean, the states and ocean industries. It offers a seat at the decision-making table for ocean users across the region and seeks to proactively identify ocean uses and resolve conflicts before they become problematic.

Over the course of two days, these ocean users met with 27 members of Congress and the National Ocean Council to talk about the benefits smart ocean planning has brought to the region and will continue to bring. This visit was a celebration of the hard work the region has put in to the planning process, and also a chance to discuss with federal leaders the significance of this ocean plan. They requested support for the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan and the efforts of ocean users like themselves who have been invested in this collaborative process with the goal of making better, more informed ocean use decisions.

The Experience

What were some of the takeaways for the people who came down from the region, and what does planning mean to different ocean sectors? Check out what three of the individuals that attended the D.C. fly-in last week had to say:

“My job is to empower students in engaging with their community’s greatest asset: the ocean. What excited me about meeting with the Connecticut delegation was seeing shipping, commerce, fishing, and government all working together on ocean planning. Now I can honestly tell my students: our government and ocean users work together! There are possibilities out there for you!”

— Mary Horrigan, New England Science and Sailing (Connecticut)

“We had a diversity of stakeholders attend these meetings with Congress. Did we have differences of opinion? Of course, we weren’t 100% in agreement, but that’s the whole point. The key thing with ocean planning is that we have multiple stakeholders involved and a transparent process. Commercial fishing is everything to the economy of New Bedford. But it’s important to keep in mind that offshore wind and boating are also important opportunities.

— Ed Anthes-Washburn, Port of New Bedford (Massachusetts)

“We really all came together—recreational boaters, shipping, seafood farmers, offshore wind—we are all different, but by working together we provided a unified front. It’s a really exciting thing. The support from the Representatives and Senators from Rhode Island has been huge! We appreciate their rallying for this worthy cause.”

— Greg Silkes, American Mussel Harvesters, Inc. (Rhode Island)

What’s Next?

On May 25, the Northeast Regional Planning Body will release the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan and will welcome comments for 60 days. A webinar will be held from noon-2p.m. EST, during which the Northeast Regional Planning Body will provide an overview of the draft and describe the public comment period.

The Mid-Atlantic is not far behind either—we expect to see the draft Regional Ocean Action Plan, spanning the waters from New York to Virginia in July! Learn more about the Northeast ocean planning process at their website, and learn more about ocean planning at our website.

Ocean Users Gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan, which will be released in draft form on May 25th Ocean Users from New Hampshire met with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) Senator Ed Markey (MA) stopped by to talk about ocean planning at a reception for the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan, and met with ocean users from across New England Greg and Mason Silkes stand with the Rhode Island oysters their family business supplied for a reception on the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse speaks about ocean planning at a reception celebrating the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan Representative Jim Langevin met with Rhode Islanders to talk about ocean planning in New England Ocean Users from Maine met with Representative Chellie Pingree (ME) Ocean Users from Maine met with Representative Bruce Poliquin (ME) Representative David Cicilline poses with ocean users at a reception on Capitol Hill celebrating the upcoming release of the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan Rhode Island Oysters supplied by American Mussel Harvesters for an event celebrating the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan Capitol Building, Washington, DC ]]>
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New Maps Highlight Where Fishing Communities Use the Mid-Atlantic Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/05/new-maps-highlight-where-fishing-communities-use-the-mid-atlantic-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/05/new-maps-highlight-where-fishing-communities-use-the-mid-atlantic-ocean/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 15:50:59 +0000 Amy Trice http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12033

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.

A federal agency staffer or state decision-maker can now click on the Communities at Sea data layers to understand, for example, where gillnetters from a particular port location fish.  As any fisherman will tell you, the fish they follow don’t know or care about state boundaries. Fishermen, whose home port is in Newport News, Virginia, are also likely fishing in federal waters off the coast of New York.  That means the decisions made off the coast of New York also affect communities and ports in other locations.  This new tool developed to support the Mid-Atlantic regional ocean plan ensures fishermen, and the space they occupy on the water, are represented in the data and as part of the ocean plan.

As part of the ocean planning process, fishermen also requested that the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal include maps that highlight the fishery management zones including those for ocean quahogs, surf clams and scallops.

Additional datasets added to the Portal use the Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) on board fishing vessels, which tracks vessel movement, to show where commercial fishing activity occurs. Datasets are grouped by specific categories such as scallops, herring, or monkfish.  This Mid-Atlantic VMS data is used courtesy of Northeast ocean planning colleagues and can be found on both the Northeast Ocean Data Portal and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal.

The collective value of these new maps is extensive. This data can help guide engagement with specific fishing communities when a potential management or permitting process occurs in the waters where they fish. This type of targeted engagement is a step to ensure fishermen have a voice in the development activity affecting their fishing grounds and a crucial step to avoid future ocean use conflicts.

Read the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal team’s blog for more information on the methods behind the Communities at Sea data.  A guided tour of the new datasets and other fishing-related maps available on the Portal is set for June 21, click here for more information.

Scallop Fishery Management Areas: These areas reflect the current fishery management areas protected by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Communities at Sea Data for Gillnet. Communities at Sea maps  link fishing communities to specific resource areas in the ocean. Communities at Sea data for bottom trawl Communities at Sea data set for pots and traps Vessel monitoring system data for scallops 2011-2014 ( MeghanBowling ]]>
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New Interactive Maps Show Where and How We Use the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/15/new-interactive-maps-show-where-and-how-we-use-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/15/new-interactive-maps-show-where-and-how-we-use-the-ocean/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2016 15:25:00 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11633

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.

As part of the Mid-Atlantic regional ocean planning process, a team of data experts developed 64 unique map layers depicting a wide variety of uses and data types, and launched them for public consumption on the data portal. They also synthesized these 64 maps in to 10 easy to understand thematic maps. These maps all serve as a guidepost for ocean planners and decision-makers, highlighting high use intensity areas while making the data portal an ever more useful tool.

What do these maps show?

The Human Use Data Synthesis (HUDS) team overlaid the Mid-Atlantic Ocean with a grid of 10km x 10km squares, quantifying the level of use for 64 different activities, while also creating broader ocean use groupings of data, including five major human use themes. To show the full extent of human use, the HUDS team also took all 64 layers and synthesized them in to a single map, displaying total intensity of use on a standardized scale.

Below are short descriptions of five major human use themes:

 

See all data layers for the five major human use themes. Fishing: 15 data layers depicting fishing vessel trip reports and vessel monitoring system data as well as artificial reef locations were wrapped in to one map highlighting the intensity and distribution of fishing in the Mid-Atlantic. Maritime: There are 21 data layers included in the maritime synthesis map, including aids to navigation, maintained navigation channels, shipwrecks, and submarine cables, giving a comprehensive overview of major maritime activities and locations. Recreation: Recreation is a major draw for people travelling to, and living near, our ocean and coastlines. The HUDS team built this map with 9 data layers reflecting recreational boating, fishing, sightseeing and more. Energy: The energy theme focuses on renewable energy in the Mid-Atlantic, wrapping in 4 data layers including wind energy lease areas. Security: The Mid-Atlantic is home to the largest naval base in the world. To help characterize military activity in the region, the HUDS team synthesized 15 layers of declassified information such as Navy Operational Areas, test tracks, and restricted areas.

What other data can we expect? 

These data products are the first step in an ongoing effort to quantify human use in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. Over time, new information will be incorporated in the portal along with the existing data. As it stands, the HUDS team already has new data on the horizon, such as a comprehensive overview of sand and gravel resources by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. In the near term, fascinating new products on marine life (mammals, birds, and fish) in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions are quickly approaching; our first sneak peek given in a new peer-reviewed journal article published March 3rd. Make sure to check out the Human Use data for yourself, and check back regularly as we continue to provides updates on regional ocean planning in the US.

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