The Blog Aquatic » ocean planning News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:25:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 It’s Groundhog Day in the House of Representatives for Rep. Flores Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:03:41 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen

Image derived from media by Columbia Pictures, Richard Cameron and Jeffrey Zeldman

One of my favorite scenes in the 1993 film Groundhog Day is when a melancholy Bill Murray is sitting at the bar with a couple of charming Punxsutawney locals and asks, “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?“

So, last week when I heard about yet another attempt by Representative Bill Flores (R-TX) and his fellow House Natural Resources Committee members to undermine smart ocean planning through a rider attached to an appropriations bill, I couldn’t help but think about that scene from Groundhog Day and laugh.  In the movie, Bill Murray’s character is stuck living out the same day in agonizing perpetuity. In real life, Representative Flores continuously attaches anti-ocean planning riders to any bill he can. Ten times these riders have been introduced in the House – but so far each one has either been stripped out of the bill by ocean champions or the bill has died altogether.

At least in Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character takes the opportunity of being stuck living the same day over and over to learn jazz piano, French, and all of the answers to that day’s episode of Jeopardy. I’m not sure what is to be learned by introducing the same – ultimately unsuccessful – anti-ocean rider ten times.

Fortunately for the rest of us who live and work in coastal communities, Representative Flores’ attempts to slow down smart ocean planning efforts aren’t working; Planning efforts are actually ramping up. As John Podesta confirmed last month, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions will be finishing their ocean plans by 2016. In fact, Flores’ opposition has served to throw a spotlight on the tremendous public support that exists for planning.  Hundreds of groups and thousands of individuals representing a broad array of interests including commercial fishing, engineering and consulting, recreation and tourism, renewable energy, academics, tribes, faith-based groups, NGOs, and everyday citizens have written to Congress in support of smart ocean planning.  Thanks to this support from the public and all levels of government, planning is moving forward.

The movie Groundhog Day doesn’t resolve until Bill Murray’s character changes his ways. Perhaps Representative Flores will change his ways, too, once he realizes that smart ocean planning is a bottom-up solution that benefits communities, businesses, and the environment.

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Celebrating Capitol Hill Ocean Week with a Commitment to Finalized Plans and a New National Ocean Council Director Tue, 10 Jun 2014 19:30:12 +0000 Anne Merwin

Here in Washington, DC we are celebrating Capitol Hill Ocean Week  just on the heels of World Oceans Day.  As part of the celebration, White House Counselor John Podesta made two key announcements in his opening keynote address. First, an exciting official confirmation that smart ocean plans will be finished by 2016 in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic – spanning the ocean from Maine to Virginia. This important work by the Regional Planning Bodies is a landmark that will help coastal communities and businesses thrive.

Second, Podesta welcomed Beth Kerttula as the new Director of the National Ocean Council. Kerttula comes with a wealth of ocean expertise.  Before joining the National Ocean Council (NOC), she was a visiting fellow at Stanford University Center for Ocean Solutions.  Previously, she served as Democratic Leader of the Alaska State House of Representatives and has over 15 years of experience as an elected official.  Her experience covers a range of ocean issues from coastal zone management to ocean acidification.

The NOC provides a blueprint and support network for implementation of the National Ocean Policy that is a common sense approach to foster coordination among states, the federal government and ocean users.

At Ocean Conservancy, we are excited that smart ocean planning is advancing on the east coast. We also look forward to working with Director Kerttula as she takes the helm of the National Ocean Council.

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For Ocean Planning to Work, Decision-Makers Must Engage Stakeholders Mon, 10 Mar 2014 20:11:22 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen

Advocates for smart ocean planning from around the country at our D.C. office before meeting with members of Congress

Last week, I wrote about how coastal and marine spatial planning (“smart ocean planning”) is an essential tool for making smart choices about the future of our ocean. In order to make those smart choices though, smart ocean planning requires gathering and sharing sound data to promote informed, science-based decision-making. Accurate data on all of the ways the ocean is used must be collected and compared. Decision-makers need as much data as possible to identify where conflicts exist and where they might emerge.

To accomplish this goal, state-based Regional Ocean Partnerships are coordinating the collection of these data and making them available to the public. In the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and West Coast regions, Regional Ocean Partnerships have already begun this process by creating “data portals”. These interactive, Web-based portals allow any user — from the general public to agency decision-makers —to compare maps of artificial reefs, recreational boating spots, whale migration paths, offshore renewable energy lease areas, commercial shipping routes and more.

Since smart ocean planning requires coordination among stakeholders every step of the way, input from all of those sectors is necessary for accurate and complete data collection. For example, the Northeast region recently engaged the recreational boating community by asking it to contribute spatial and economic data. The survey helped identify the waters that boaters frequent and revealed that in 2012, the recreational boating sector generated $3.5 billion and supported nearly 27,000 jobs.

These data now allow the needs and importance of the recreational boating community to be considered when decision-makers are determining how to best manage coastal waters in the Northeast. Furthermore, the more these data are shared the more we can ensure collaboration between government agencies and stakeholders that is needed for informed decision-making will occur.

This week, Ocean Conservancy staff members are joining stakeholders from around the country in meeting with members of Congress regarding the importance of the Regional Ocean Partnerships and smart ocean planning, and we would encourage you to do the same by contacting your representatives and senators to make your voice heard on the issue.

For more information on what is needed to effectively implement marine spatial planning, check out this short interview with Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, senior advisor to Ocean Conservancy:

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Ocean Planning Makes Sense Thu, 07 Nov 2013 21:49:49 +0000 Guest Blogger Two men fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Photo: Tom McCann / Ocean Conservancy

The piece below was excerpted from an article by Rip Cunningham on the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) Blog. Cunningham is the former chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council. He is also Conservation Editor for Saltwater Sportsman magazine, of which he was publisher and editor-in-chief for 31 years. 

While the piece expresses concern about some aspects of ocean-use planning, it makes a formidable case for the need to engage in it. Ocean Conservancy believes that smart ocean planning is important for balancing all of the interests in our ocean, so we welcome this kind of discussion.


I know that some in the recreational fishing industry think that “ocean planning” is part of the great conspiracy to totally eliminate extractive activities like recreational or commercial fishing. They feel that this process is simply “ocean zoning” intent on removing fishing.

Maybe it is and I am just too naive to see it, but there are too many signs pointing in other directions. First, I don’t believe in the great conspiracy theory, and secondly, I think that doing some real planning makes a whole lot of sense, and I understand that in that process there will be winners and losers.

The best description, in my opinion, of how ocean planning should work is found on Sea Plan’s, an independent ocean planning policy group, website: “Coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) aims to distribute and accommodate both traditional and emerging ocean activities to produce sustainable economic and social benefits while minimizing spatial conflicts and environmental impacts. CMSP is an iterative process that uses the best available science along with stakeholder input to support integrated, adaptable and forward-looking ocean management decision-making.”

The part of the process that I find objectionable is the building of more bureaucracy to complete this task. There are already agencies at the federal, regional and state level that deal with these issues. Do we need several layers of bureaucracy just to get these organizations to play in the sandbox together?

In any case, here in New England, we have the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), which appears to be a regional version of the National Ocean Council (NOC). However, it was organized by the Northeast governors about five years prior to NOC, which was established under an executive order from President Obama and likely the genesis of the anti-ocean planning movement.

Many feel that this was merely an end run around the failed legislation called Oceans 21. Again, maybe it was, but that does not negate the need for some real thinking about how we use our ocean. Things such as renewable energy development, at-sea LNG terminals, pipeline construction, ocean mining, etc. are going to happen. In comparison to those industries, fishing doesn’t stand a chance. We would be road kill on the developmental highway without some controlling structure.

While I don’t happen to believe that it is enough, fishing does have some representation at the Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) level. This is through a representative from the New England Fishery Management Council sitting at the RPB table. Yes, fishing is just one voice among many, but without any representation, there would be no chance.

Recently, a coalition of marine interests including SeaPlan, representatives of the boating industry, New England states and the state of New York, U.S. Coast Guard and NROC conducted a survey titled Northeast Recreational Boating Survey. This effort was designed to get stakeholder input on how boaters use the Northeast waters. It was a very comprehensive survey that got input from 12,000 participants.

The survey shows the importance of boaters who generated $3.5 billion in economic activity. A much older survey conducted by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) indicated that 75 percent of all powerboats were used for fishing at some point. I don’t know if that holds true today, but it indicates fishing is still a substantial part of this economic engine. The take home message is that NROC is concerned about the recreational fishing industry and how it fits into the planning process.

I am also aware of efforts that are being taken to reach out to individual anglers to get their input into the process. These are being developed as this is written. NROC also has made an effort to include the party/charter fishing industry as well. If they had no interest in the fishing industry, I doubt they would make this level of effort to include stakeholder input.

While there are and will continue to be concerns about the whole coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) area, the idea that this is simply an underhanded plan to end all fishing just doesn’t carry any water (pun intended). As users we need to be involved with this type of planning and we need to try to make sure that our access to marine resources is not compromised.

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Video: Protecting Our Ocean Through Marine Spatial Planning Tue, 30 Jul 2013 18:15:24 +0000 Guest Blogger
This is a guest blog post from Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Coastal Resources Center and Director of Extension Programs for Rhode Island Sea Grant.  It is part of an ongoing video series on the value of smart ocean planning.

This film highlights the vital connection between economic prosperity and healthy oceans by sharing perspectives on efforts being made to manage ocean environments so they remain healthy and able to support the food, job, transportation and energy needs of economies worldwide.

Watch the other films in this series:


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Video: Ocean Planning: Enhancing and Protecting Our Fisheries Fri, 05 Jul 2013 14:30:56 +0000 Guest Blogger

This is a guest blog post from Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Coastal Resources Center and Director of Extension Programs for Rhode Island Sea Grant.  It is part of an ongoing video series on the value of smart ocean planning.

This film offers thinking from practitioners about how ocean planning — with its emphasis on integrating planning approaches across multiple resources and user groups — could help solve complicated economic, social and environmental issues challenging the fishing industry.

Watch the other films in this series:


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Advancing the Ocean Economy: Renewable Energy Fri, 21 Jun 2013 18:35:00 +0000 Guest Blogger

This is a guest blog post from Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Coastal Resources Center and Director of Extension Programs for Rhode Island Sea Grant.  It is part of an ongoing video series on the value of smart ocean planning.

The film is the second in our series and introduces offshore renewable energy issues as they relate to ocean planning, and shows how coastal communities in the U.S. and overseas are turning to these resources, such as wind power, to support jobs and industries.

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