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Ocean Currents

A Summer Review of President Trump’s Ocean Policy

Regional momentum for ocean data and management

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© Rafeed Hussain

Summer is usually a quiet time of year in Washington, but it has been a busy three months for ocean planning and policy work since the Trump Administration released its ocean policy executive order back in June.

Here are four issues we are closely tracking as part of the ocean policy:

  1. Regional Ocean Partnerships
  2. Publicly accessible, regional ocean data portals
  3. Coordination across federal agencies
  4. Ocean leadership at the White House with the creation of the Ocean Policy Committee

For a more detailed analysis of the order and the above issues, you can read my previous blog here.

As the implementation of the ocean policy moves forward, we will continue to work to ensure the commitments made in this executive order are fulfilled. Specifically, we are focused on advancing ocean planning and filling much needed data gaps to inform ocean management decisions.

Some highlights of ocean planning progress this summer are:

Ocean Policy Committee held its inaugural meeting

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© Rafeed Hussain
The newly established Ocean Policy Committee (OPC)—which includes NOAA, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Navy and other federal agencies involved in ocean management—held its first meeting on August 1. The OPC established two subcommittees specific to ocean science and technology and ocean resource management. The Ocean Resource Management (ORM) subcommittee will address policy coordination associated with ocean management including engaging Regional Ocean Partnerships and stakeholders. During the inaugural meeting, the ORM was tasked with coordinating the release of ocean related data. To help accomplish this, the subcommittee will conduct outreach to stakeholders in order to identify key data needs throughout the regions, as well as Alaska, and will develop recommendations to release data necessary to fill regional data gaps. We were happy to see a summary of the OPC meeting published and are hopeful this transparency will continue.

The OPC is co-chaired by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP). Both agencies now have nominations to lead them. Mary Neumayr was nominated to lead CEQ and Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier was nominated as Director of OSTP. Both nominations have made it through committee and are up for a full senate vote.  If confirmed, both Neumayr and Droegemeier will serve as co-leads of the OPC. As part of Neumayr’s confirmation process, several Senators also sent a letter requesting her engagement in the newly released ocean policy.

Regional commitments to coordination

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© Northeast Regional Ocean Council
The ocean policy does away with formal Regional Planning Bodies and instead directs federal agencies to engage with Regional Ocean Partnerships. The focus on ocean planning through these partnerships means that states will work together and with federal agencies to define ocean management priorities. Because the policy is relatively new, regions are still working through how they will move forward. After the release of the ocean policy, however, the Mid-Atlantic’s Regional Ocean Partnership called the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) issued a statement on its commitment to regional coordination on ocean management. We expect regions to work through structural and organizational components this fall, developing effective ways to engage with federal agencies and stakeholders. Specifically, the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) is expected to discuss its organizational options for advancing regional ocean management priorities at its meeting in November.

Data updates for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

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© Northeast Ocean Data
As a sign of continued progress on enhancing the accessibility of data for regional needs, both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portals, in conjunction with the Marine Cadastre, released nearly 3,000 updated data layers. These upgrades provide more recent information on populations and abundances for individual fish, bird and marine mammal species. Updates in collaboration with the Coast Guard were also made to the AIS vessel traffic data that is essential for understanding maritime transportation coming into and out of East Coast ports.

American Samoa releases its first ocean plan

Cornforth Images:Alamy
© Cornforth Images/Alamy
American Samoa released the first ocean plan completed in the United States for its territories in the Pacific Ocean. The plan was locally-driven by the American Samoa Ocean Planning Team and seeks to provide information that encourages compatible uses and reduces conflicts. The plan also describes ecological, social and economic research needs for the territory. Public comments on the draft plan have just closed and we look forward to the finalized plan and the continued progress in the Pacific.

We will continue to update you this year as work progresses in the region with a specific focus on: the work of the ORM subcommittee, regional data updates and data gaps filled by federal agencies, and organizational updates from the Regional Ocean Partnerships.

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