Ocean Protection, Marine Spatial Planning
December 16 2019

Legislation to Support Regional Ocean Work Advances

by Matt Gove

The Surfrider Foundation has been working for over a decade to support regional approaches to ocean and coastal management. Recommended by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in 2004, a regional approach brings together states, tribes, federal agencies and the public to better manage and protect our nation's ocean ecoystems. This collaborative approach fosters positive outcomes for our coasts and ocean, benefiting ecosystems as well as the communities and economies that depend upon them. 

Voluntary entities like the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, and the West Coast Ocean Alliance (known as Regional Ocean Partnerships) have stepped up to address such issues, but have been hampered by weak federal leadership and funding.

The Regional Ocean Partnership Act (HR.5390 and S.2166) seeks to formally authorize Regional Ocean Partnerships (ROPs) as partners with the federal government, as well as provide ROPs with more consistent funding to continue working on issues unique to each region.

The legislation, introduced by two Republicans and two Democrats (Reps. Crist D-FL; Palazzo R-MS; Lowenthal D-CA; and Smith R-NJ), recognizes that ROPs are a valuable forum for coastal and ocean users and managers, addressing emerging and region-wide issues such as ocean trash, ocean acidification, and offshore wind power generation. 

“Regional Ocean Partnerships have a long history of success at dealing with issues revolving around managing and restoring our ocean and coastal regions. This bill would allow us to continue to build on the tremendous accomplishments that have been achieved through ROPs across the nation by providing these programs with secure and predictable funding,” said Rep. Lowenthal. “I am proud to join Rep. Crist in putting forward this bill to further the critical research, conservation, and restoration efforts ROPs provide.”    

One of the major ROP accomplishments was the creation of regional ocean data portals, which are valuable decision support tools that help us better understand how management decisions affect human uses and the ecosystem. Surfrider contributed data on recreational uses like surfing to these portals in 2013. 

ROPs recognize that effective and successful management requires meaningful engagement and collaboration between federal agencies, states, Native American tribes, local governments, NGOs, stakeholders, and the public. Such engagement benefits management and planning efforts, as well as increases buy-in from myriad ocean stakeholders who use and value our nation’s tremendous coastal ecosystems.

Increasing pressure on ocean and coastal areas from new human uses and the effects of stressors, such as climate change, habitat loss, and pollution, demands smarter and more effective approaches to managing these critical areas. 

Surfrider is supporting the Regional Ocean Partnership Act (HR. 5390 and S. 2166) because it will give ROPs the tools they need to continue to move forward with their important work for our coasts and ocean. We encourage Surfrider members to support this legislation by contacting their representatives in the Senate and House.