Smart Ocean Planning

Sharing the Seas

The Miss Britt fished just off the coast of Miami. (Photo: Whitney Hassett)

Sharing the Seas

When you close your eyes and picture the ocean, you probably imagine vast, open waters and peaceful solitude. In reality, the ocean is a busier place than you might imagine. It plays an important role in our lives, from recreational activities to thriving coastal economies.

We have more than 13,000 miles of coastline in the U.S. and more than 3 million square nautical miles of ocean, an area greater than all 50 states combined!

Our ocean and coasts provide jobs for 3 million people in coastal communities across the country. Ocean industries such as commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism and recreation, and marine transportation generate hundreds of billions of dollars every year, an important part our national economy. The ocean is also a bastion of natural beauty, unparalleled in biodiversity. We must protect the ocean’s long-term health, not only for habitat and marine life that depend on it, but for the humans that have relied on its resources for generations. And all of this requires maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem, even as human demands and stresses to the ocean are increasing.

Join us as we plan for the future of our ocean!  Our ocean is changing, and getting busier by the day. We need a good plan to help manage it all.Smart ocean planning brings together ocean users, scientists and researchers and government officials to talk about how we use the ocean now and how we will use it in the future, to ensure that the oceans health is maintained and economies are strong.

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The Problem

Our ocean, the species that live in it and the communities that depend on it are all vulnerable to change and stress.

The ocean environment is already rapidly changing thanks to climate change, and at the same time the way we use the ocean is dynamic and expanding. Commercial and recreational fishermen who have lived off the sea for generations are now sharing space with offshore wind farms. Coastal communities’ calls to replenish beaches after storms are driving sand mining proposals in the same places offshore that harbor important fish habitat.

In this world of increasing stresses and demands on our ocean, it is more important than ever to understand how all of these ocean uses interact with each other and the ocean environment, so that we can get ahead of any problems. But our traditional system for managing the ocean was never designed to provide that kind of holistic management. Most of our laws and agencies were established to address specific topics, ocean uses or resource needs. Dozens of federal agencies, each with their own independent missions, are involved in managing ocean waters. Without a way to coordinate and plan, we won’t be able to tackle the incredible stresses and changes our ocean and communities are facing.

Ocean Planning Whale Factoid

Did you know: Fewer than 500 Atlantic right whales survive off our eastern coastline.

Just imagine if you were building a house and your carpenter, electrician, plumber, and construction crew never worked out a plan together – would any of them be able to get their jobs done right? Would you wind up with a house at all? The same is true in the ocean: without smart ocean planning, the families, communities and wildlife that depend on the ocean to survive are risking conflict and crises where everyone loses.

The Solution

Smart Ocean Plans

It’s always key to have a good plan. To help protect our ocean and economy, regions across the country have embarked on their own planning processes to collect data, engage ocean users and coordinate decision-making to better understand how, where and when we use the ocean.

ann-merwin

“Smart ocean planning is a refreshing way of understanding ocean uses from different points of view—to include the needs of people, industries and the natural ecosystem we all depend on.”

Anne Merwin
Director, Ocean Planning

Because ocean planning is voluntary and only done at the request of the states or regions, different regions are at various stages of the planning process.

Leading the nation and changing history are the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, who now both have regional ocean plans in place for the waters from Virginia to Maine. Following close behind are the Pacific Islands and the West Coast, embarking on their own, unique planning processes to meet the needs of each region’s diverse ocean uses and unique ecosystem.

The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic plans take a stakeholder-driven approach, with revolutionary public data portals with unique information describing how and where people and animals use the ocean. By putting the right people and the right data around the decision-making table together, these plans help minimize conflict and protect the environment and the interests and livelihoods of all those involved.

Smart ocean planning serves as a guidepost for future changes in the way we use and interact with our ocean and how ocean users interact among themselves.

Meet Jeff and Bill, an unlikely pair of friends who came to respect each other through the ocean planning process

Join us as we plan for the future of our ocean!  Our ocean is changing, and getting busier by the day. We need a good plan to help manage it all.Smart ocean planning brings together ocean users, scientists and researchers and government officials to talk about how we use the ocean now and how we will use it in the future, to ensure that the oceans health is maintained and economies are strong.

Take Action

We’re working to ensure that our ocean, one of the greatest natural assets in the world, is protected and the communities that depend on it continue to thrive. Smart ocean planning is nothing short of revolutionary, but we need your support to create innovative solutions for the greatest threats facing our ocean.

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