Our ocean, as you know, is a very busy place. Thanks to the common-sense approach of ocean planning that combines shared data, innovative management tools and open engagement between all who rely on a strong ocean economy, I am pleased to be able to share six inspiring examples of ocean planning in action.
- For the first time ever, the New England Fishery Management Council and commercial fishermen have robust interactive maps to help visualize fishing needs together with marine conservation priorities. Fishermen and conservation stakeholders used the Northeast Ocean Data Portal to analyze alternatives to an amendment proposal that could conserve rare and wonderful deep-sea corals in the Gulf of Maine and in the canyon slope region south of Georges Bank.
- A coastal community in Massachusetts has another chance at preserving their way of life thanks to the data and information from the Northeast Ocean Data Portal. The Northeastern Massachusetts Aquaculture Center at Salem State University was able to demonstrate that a blue water mussel farm—the first shellfish farm in Atlantic Ocean federal waters—was unlikely to have negative effects on protected whale populations. This offshore aquaculture facility is poised to usher in new economic opportunities for local people.
- How do you increase maritime safety and improve weather forecasts? By finding the best possible site for a new high-tech wave-monitoring buoy! Thanks to the data from the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems is able to, for the first time ever, provide real-time data on wave conditions for Cape Cod Bay to ensure safe passage of ships, tugs and barges across a very busy stretch of the ocean.
- Access to 75 robust data sets from the Northeast Ocean Data Portal allowed for a new public tool called the New York Geographic Information Gateway, to increase its decision-making power with a plethora of new data. It not only allows users to learn more about the ecology of ocean waters that extend from Staten Island in the west to Montauk and Fisher’s Island in the east, it also serves as an important decision-support tool for accessing the needs of the ocean economy. Access to these data sets provides huge cost savings to the State of New York and Connecticut.
- Marine traffic management on the ocean received a huge boost with the integration of the Automatic Identification System data from ship, tug and barge traffic collected by the US Coast Guard. It is now being integrated into both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portals to help assess risk and safety concerns, including those related to offshore infrastructure like wind platforms.
- The Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal is helping preserve our information superhighways. Accurate and comprehensive maps of undersea cable locations are helping to avert major telecom disruptions from vessel anchoring and sand and gravel mining projects. The North American Submarine Cable Association, whose membership includes telecom heavy hitters like Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, worked to share a comprehensive database of cable locations.
These six examples are just the beginning.
These are just a subset of the way states, federal agencies and people making their living on the ocean are using ocean planning, data and strong collaboration to improve their success on the water.
Over the past decade, Ocean Conservancy has worked to support smart ocean planning at the state and regional level. We celebrated as the first regional ocean plans were developed in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. We support states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Washington and Oregon planning for their state waters (0-3 nautical miles). And, we’re excited that the West Coast is moving forward with its ocean plan.
As more data gaps are filled and the data portals are integrated into more decision-making, I’m sure we will continue to see even more real world benefits from ocean planning.
It’s enough to buoy up my #oceanoptimism!