Ocean Protection, Marine Spatial Planning, Updates, Ocean Planning
December 07 2016

New Ocean Management Plans Get the Green Light

by Melissa GatesMatt Gove

The Surfrider Foundation applauds the National Ocean Council for approving the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regional ocean plans on December 7, 2016.

The plans are products of years of hard work and collaboration by state, federal, and tribal representatives, with input from thousands of public ocean and coastal stakeholders, such as the Surfrider Foundation. The grassroots origins and region-led process that created the plans will guide management of our valuable coastlines and ocean resources for decades to come.

Tourism and recreation is the number one economic driver in our coastal communities, worth an estimated $40 billion in GDP per year in the Mid and Northeastern Atlantic states, alone. Ocean planning can facilitate the continued growth and protection of this valuable industry, which is reliant upon a clean and vibrant ocean ecosystem.

“National security, aquaculture, recreation, energy: all of these competing interests drive us to ocean planning,” said Jose F.H. Atangan, Ocean Ranger Planning Section Head for the U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “We need to make sure that there is compatibility in uses at the same time that we are preserving and protecting our ocean environment.”

The general goal of regional ocean planning is to increase collaboration and communication between government agencies that make decisions about the ocean, and to have management be informed by the interests of Tribal Nations, the public and all ocean users. This process has historically been piecemeal rather than systemwide; ocean planning seeks to have all decision makers at the table looking 360-degrees at issues through a lens of ecosystem-based management, to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Surfrider has been involved with ocean planning efforts for many years, first working to establish a state-based plan in Oregon and in Rhode Island, and then working to support the regional processes in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. We're actively engaged in the burgeoning regional process across the U.S., as well as state-based plans in Washington and Connecticut. Across the board, we call for increased identification and protection of priority environmental and recreation areas, while serving as a representative for the recreational coastal use sector.

Surfrider has led studies to collect economic and spatial data on recreational uses, with data sets then incorporated into online decision and support tools called data portals (Northeast; Mid-Atlantic). The utility of the data portals provides us with a rare opportunity to layer data, and look into the future to envision what kind of coast we want, instead of chasing the latest proposed project to mitigate it’s detrimental impacts to the ecosystem and our recreational hotspots.

With the approval of the final ocean plans, tribal nations, federal agencies and states will begin the process of implementation to usher in this new wave of ocean management by putting into place new best practices established in the plans, as well as new ways of collaborating and communicating. The next phase of putting the plans into action is important so ocean users can fully utilize the process to reap on the water benefits that will enable better decision-making, better understanding of uses, and more healthy ocean and coastal resources.

“Developing ocean plans allows us all to implement a comprehensive, integrated stewardship plan,” said Chris P. Scraba, Deputy Chief of Waterways Management for the United States Coast Guard, “to ensure that the many sustainable ocean uses can be smartly and safely coordinated in a compatible manner.”

Surfrider will continue to be a key stakeholder in the ocean planning processes, making sure that recreational users are involved in actions covering diverse topics such as ocean acidification, decreasing ocean debris, identifying indicators, and planning for sustainable sand management.Matt Gove quote in OFIII

You can get involved in the process by joining the email list for ocean planning in your region! More info at protectandenjoy.org or email directly:

Read the final ocean plans, here:

Still confused about what ocean planning is? Watch this short film produced by the Surfrider Foundation and Chris Hannant of Swell Productions.

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