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We demand a lot from our oceans -- from fishing and tourism, to shipping and energy development. But our seas are already under siege from problems like pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification. Increased ocean activities, if not carried out wisely, will cause "ocean sprawl," further stressing these valuable resources and jeopardizing the food, jobs and recreation we need our oceans to provide. Coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) is a common sense process that allocates space in the oceans for various uses, identifying areas in which different uses make sense and other areas where ocean habitat needs protection.

Video: Ocean Blueprint

Ocean Blueprint video

Ocean explorer Philippe Cousteau narrates this short video explaining the need for responsible planning to protect marine resources. Watch the Video >>

Video: Sharing Our Seas

Sharing Our Seas video

Learn more about how the National Ocean Policy can protect our oceans and coasts, and how you can help. Watch the Video >>

This effort is particularly important as offshore wind and other renewable energy projects, which will play a critical role in moving America toward a clean energy economy, start to occur off our coasts. Smart ocean planning will help us ensure that offshore renewable energy is located in the right places with minimal impacts on ocean and coastal ecosystems. It can reduce conflicts between new and existing ocean activities from the get-go, while easing the pressure on our already-stressed seas.

In July 2010, President Obama issued Executive Order No. 13547 establishing the nation's first-ever National Ocean Policy. We finally have a bedrock environmental policy for our oceans. This is a huge victory for everyone who treasures the wonder of the seas, who values ocean life, who flocks to the beach, who loves seafood, and who makes a living on or from the water. A National Ocean Council of existing federal agencies was created to implement the policy. Part of this Council's work will be to help regions design coastal and marine spatial plans, with input from all levels of government, businesses, fisheries managers, and conservation groups.

NRDC is working to ensure that state, regional and federal efforts to map out and use our ocean waters are based on protecting ocean ecosystem health so that we can continue to enjoy all of the services we rely on the ocean to provide.

last revised 7/23/2013

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