Protecting Our Mid-Atlantic Ocean for the Future
The Mid-Atlantic's ocean and coast are a beautiful place for families to visit, swim and fish. They are an economic powerhouse, contributing billions to the region's gross domestic product and thousands of jobs. But our ocean faces growing challenges, from pollution to loss of habitat and sometimes competing industrial uses. Together, we need to identify areas that are appropriate for use and those that need protection. This cooperation will help us ensure a healthy ocean for generations to come.
Home to a rich variety of fish and wildlife, from blue crabs, oysters and flounder to endangered whales and turtles, the Mid-Atlantic's ocean provides delicious seafood, thousands of jobs, and valuable recreation opportunities along the nation's most populous coastline. Ocean industries contribute more than $47 billion to the region's gross domestic product, with ocean tourism and recreation responsible for more than half of this wealth and more than 75 percent of all ocean jobs in 2011.
Our enjoyment of these places relies on their continued health; however, our ocean faces numerous challenges. Our oceans and coasts are stressed from problems like pollution, depleted fish populations, endangered species, warmer temperatures, and ocean acidification.
Further, our oceans are increasingly busy places. For example, the Mid-Atlantic's offshore waters serve as migratory corridors for much ocean life, including endangered North Atlantic right whales, sea turtles, and many fish species, yet many of these same areas are being examined for offshore wind proposals; may experience increased shipping and larger ships as a result of the Panama Canal expansion; and be impacted by sea level rise and the stronger, bigger storms which are predicted to change the shape of our shoreline and have already created demand for mining the offshore sand deposits valuable for fisheries.
Coordinated Ocean Planning Will Help Protect
Dozens of different agencies have overlapping and sometimes conflicting responsibilities for addressing ocean development, and historically, there has been a lack of coordination. That is now changing: The Mid-Atlantic states of New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia have united with federal agency, tribal, and fisheries management representatives to work together more efficiently and encourage sustainable use and protection of the ocean waters off of the Mid-Atlantic states, from the shoreline out to 200 miles. Proactively planning for ocean uses like renewable energy reduces conflicts between new and existing ocean activities from the start, while easing the pressure on our already-stressed seas.
Those of us who use and love the ocean, such as environmental organizations, fishermen, shipping companies, coastal tourism businesses, and members of the public, need to encourage this coordinated ocean planning and help identify areas of the sea that are appropriate for use and those that need protection. This cooperation will help us ensure a healthy ocean for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.
NRDC is working to ensure that the regional plan protects, maintains, and restores the health of our ocean habitats, fish, and wildlife upon which we depend for jobs, food, recreation, and a way of life.
Video: Ocean Blueprint
Video: Sharing Our Seas
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From NRDC's Ali Chase
last revised 1/12/2015