A World of Ocean Planning

Ocean Planning: 4 countries leading the way

This week Bali, Indonesia, is hosting the fifth annual Our Ocean conference. There is something inspiring about heads of state, industry leaders, conservationists like Ocean Conservancy and other stakeholders coming together to take meaningful action to protect the defining feature of this blue planet—our ocean.

As a super-fan of smart ocean planning in the United States, I was excited to learn that 70 other countries have embraced this approach to managing their marine environment. Here’s a snapshot of four countries that are leading the way:

4. Ecuador

Betsy Bass

Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands have some of the most unique and diverse ecosystems on the planet. From mountainous volcanos bursting with lava and coral reefs bursting with life, to rocky beaches filled with cormorants probably bursting in disappointment for being the only flightless variety of the bird in the animal kingdom—there’s no place like it in the world.

An early adopter of ocean planning, Ecuador created its plan to help protect the Galapagos Islands while continuing to develop their blue economy. Ecuador first began ocean planning in 1989 with the creation of the Zonas Especiales de Manejo, where coastal management approaches were tested in 6 different zones. Since 2014, the country’s 714,500 square mile piece of the sea has been governed under the Plan de Manejo de las Areas Protegidas de Galapagos para el BUEN VIVIR.

3. United Kingdom/England

Once having the largest maritime economy in the world, England is no stranger to maritime conflicts (my favorite one involves lots of tea being dumped into a harbor). Today, the old empire’s shores are much smaller (insert USA chant) and much less hostile.

England manages its 157,000 square mile chunk of the ocean under the United Kingdom’s Marine Management Organization (MMO). England began implementing its marine plan in 2017, although the MMO was authorized in 2009.

England and the rest of the UK began ocean planning to prepare for and mitigate conflicts sharing its congested coastline with its nearby neighbors. The plans take into account the economic growth of the emerging offshore wind industry and aquaculture, and its impacts on ecologically important areas, key shipping lanes, and fishing grounds.

2. Bangladesh

My birth country of Bangladesh is best known for two things:

  1. A world class cricket team (go Tigers!) and
  2. The alarming rate of sea level rise due to climate change.

The latter is of deep concern because Bangladesh is about only the size of the state of Iowa but has a population nearly equivalent to that of California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, and North Carolina combined—most of which is along its densely populated coastlines. Bangladesh recently turned to ocean planning in order to grow its blue economy while dealing with an increase in ocean use competition caused by population growth, the effects of marine pollution, and climate change.

In 2014, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea determined the nation has a right to approximately 73,000 square miles of the Bay of Bengal after disputes with neighboring India and Myanmar. Since then, Bangladesh included ocean management in its 5 year plan for the first time in its history, and established an inter-ministry coordination unit to oversee ocean planning efforts called the Blue Economy Cell. Today, the country is still in the analytical phase of its ocean plans.

1. United States


Being American, I take pride in our ocean planning efforts at home, which brings together many ocean users from industries to tribes, fishery management councils to federal agencies.

The states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oregon, New York, and Connecticut are actively working on ocean plans. Both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have completed their plans while the West Coast and Guam are currently developing plans of their own. Our nation can offer unique insights and learn through ocean management challenges addressed at both the state and regional level.

Smart ocean planning is an effective tool that can be implemented in any country, region, state, city, town, village, and/or municipality with a coastline in the world. It’s a common-sense approach that helps all ocean users whether they be a seal, surfer or sailor. Let’s hope more countries hear about ocean planning and join this parade of nations!


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