“Can we move by the beach?” This from my three year old after another round of snow.
I don’t think it’s occurred to him that there are piles of snow there, too. He’s just thinking of the summer and playing with his grandparents in the waves. He has a point; the summer beach sounds good right about now.
While we can’t pack up the car yet, there is something extremely important we can do now to protect beach days to come.
Our ocean faces growing challenges, from pollution to loss of habitat to increasing and sometimes competing industrial uses. Our ocean is home to and serves as migratory corridors for much marine life, including endangered North Atlantic right whales, sea turtles and many fish species, yet it is an increasingly busy place:
- Offshore wind development is being proposed throughout the Mid-Atlantic;
- More shipping traffic and larger ships will result from the Panama Canal expansion currently underway and may result from proposed liquid natural gas terminals (if they are built); and
- Sea level rise and stronger, bigger storms will continue to change the shape of our shoreline and create demand for mining offshore sand deposits that are valuable for fisheries.
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: representatives from the Mid-Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania have come together with federal agency and tribal representatives to form the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body to work together more efficiently and to proactively plan for sustainable use and protection of our ocean waters and the wildlife they support.
They have just released a draft vision statement, principles, goals, objectives and an initial geographic focus for the region’s efforts to develop this coordinated ocean plan – and they need our feedback.
Those of us who use and love the ocean—fishermen, environmental organizations, 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 different uses and those that need protection. Please weigh in to let the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body know that you want them to develop an ocean plan that prioritizes a healthy Mid-Atlantic ocean and coasts so that they can continue to provide the food, jobs and recreation we want and need.
While I can’t hit the summer beach right now, I can make sure that the plans set in place ensure that the ocean I enjoy in the future is a healthy ocean for my son and generations to come.