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.
This has been a landmark year for the ocean. The tireless work of ocean advocates—like you—has resulted in a series of victories moving us towards a cleaner, healthier ocean for the communities and animals that depend on it. Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve had quite a busy year, and we’re proud to have played our part in working towards a better ocean.
Right now, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is soliciting comments from the public on “aspects of BOEM’s renewable energy program that stakeholders have found to be successful, and those program areas where there appear to be opportunities for improvement.” Click here to sign a letter that Ocean Conservancy is submitting to BOEM requesting them to make ocean planning a fundamental part of the way BOEM plans offshore.