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The Northeast Ocean Plan Sails towards a New Era for Ocean Management

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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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