Ocean Protection, Marine Spatial Planning
October 02 2018

What National Ocean Policy?

by Melissa GatesMatt Gove

On June 19, 2018, the Trump administration repealed the visionary National Ocean Policy that was created based on recommendations from the Bush Administration's Commission on Ocean Policy and signed into effect by President Obama in 2010, with widespread support across multiple sectors and interests (full report). The policy sought to address the many shortcomings of our nation’s traditional piecemeal approach to ocean management by shifting to ecosystem-based management.

In place of the National Ocean Policy, the Trump Administration issued a new executive order that prioritizes offshore energy development, extractive use of the ocean, and national security while eliminating much of the National Ocean Policy's environmental restoration and protection provisions. This stark policy shift toward elevating unsustainable development and big corporate profits over environmental protection, the public interest and the economy is nothing new under the Trump administration, but what exactly does this mean for the ocean and regional efforts well underway per the now extinguished National Ocean Policy? That's the very question the former regional planning bodies established under the policy in the Northeast (ME to CT) and Mid-Atlantic (NY to VA) are now in the process of addressing.

If you're still not sure what ocean planning is or why it's important, we made this short film to help:

There is much still to be determined about the organizational structures that will replace the former regional planning bodies. It is also unclear how the new federal priorities will affect actions established in the regional ocean plans that were certified by the National Ocean Council in 2016 after years of hard collaborative work across federal, state, tribal and public sectors. 

The former Northeast Regional Planning Body is hosting a public meeting on November 14th, 2018 to get at the heart of these questions. The Surfrider Foundation has been requested to offer feedback on regional priorities relevant to ocean recreation users, such as beach goers and surfers, to help inform future actions and priorities in regional ocean planning. A report of all regional feedback solicited will be presented at the November 14 meeting, where a decision as to whether to continue the work of regional ocean planning under the auspices of the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, which is convening on November 15 on the heels of the former Northeast Regional Planning Body and in the same city, will advance. Because tribal nations do not have a formal seat on the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, which was created by the governors of New England's coastal states in 2015 to serve as a forum for the development of goals and priorities and address regional coastal and ocean management challenges with creative solutions, Surfrider is calling upon decision makers to extend a formal invitation to tribes in order to maintain the inclusive vehicle for advancing ocean stewardship that President Obama's National Ocean Policy established.

Surfrider will continue to advocate in the Northeast for advancing the goals of a healthy ocean and coastal ecosystem, and improving agency coordination using the best available science to help improve decision making. We will stress the importance of maintaining the ocean data portals, finding creative ways to advance the identification of important ecological areas, and ensuring robust, clear public process that incorporates the voices of Americans into planning for the future of the ocean, waves and beaches. 

The Mid-Atlantic is also working to advance regional ocean stewardship under the new executive order, and has plans to host a public meeting early in 2019. The five states that make up the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) have pledged their interest to continue working on many of the topics they were working on before the National Ocean Policy was repealed, including: ocean acidification, healthy ocean indicators, non-consumptive recreation, ocean trash, sand mining and resiliency, and the ocean data portal. It is not clear at this time how tribal representatives and the relevant federal partners will fit into MARCO's work moving forward.

While the future is uncertain, here are the changes we know are advancing pursuant to the Trump policy:

•The Regional Planning Bodies are eliminated
•Federal agencies are no longer bound by the regional ocean plans
•Work on identifying special ocean places is off the agency planning table
•States will need to drive regional ocean planning efforts moving forward
•The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portals survived


Smart ocean planning just makes sense. Making informed decisions using good data is not a partisan issue, and we are confident at Surfrider that this aspect of regional ocean planning will continue to advance. Please share our public service announcements on your social media posts to help spread the word about the importance of smart ocean planning to help keep the momentum moving forward in a positive way: 


Give a shout for more information on ocean planning efforts in your region:

Mid-Atlantic: Matt Gove

National: Pete Stauffer

Northeast: Melissa Gates