On July 19, 2010, Executive Order 13547 announced a new era of ocean governance designed "To achieve an America whose stewardship ensures that the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes are healthy and resilient, safe and productive, and understood and treasured so as to promote the well-being, prosperity, and security of present and future generations." We've made huge leaps and bounds in the last five years, but there is still more we can do; read on for five easy actions you can take to help protect our waters.
The National Ocean Policy called for our more than 20 various federal entities tasked with overseeing upwards of 140 laws that manage ocean issues to better coordinate their work on everything from sea level rise planning to offshore wind development to cleaner ocean waters and climate change issues. A recent update on the Policy's federal ocean action implementation plan showed that seventy-seven percent of the plan's more than 200 actions have been completed or have significantly moved ahead. We need to ensure that our federal agencies finish this work - especially actions designed to move us towards a more holistic type of management known as "ecosystem-based management" - but we are encouraged by the work that has been accomplished so far.
The Policy also called for regional planning bodies where states, federal agencies, tribes, and fisheries management representatives would come together to plan proactively for sustainable ocean use and protection. Several planning bodies have been established and, in particular, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Regional Planning Body work is really picking up steam as members aim for final plans by the end of 2016. This kind of collaborative planning is showing benefits worldwide; a recent analysis of five government-approved ocean plans revealed that the improved planning helped increase marine protection while delivering on average $60 million per year in value from new industries (e.g., offshore wind) and retaining the value in existing industries (e.g., commercial fishing).
Now is the time to get involved in this exciting new stewardship opportunity. In honor of the fifth birthday, here are five actions to take to encourage this work over the coming months:
1. Participate in a regional planning body webinar or meeting! There are many opportunities to jump in over the next few months, and I encourage checking out the Mid-Atlantic stakeholder engagement workshop on September 22 or the Fall Northeast meeting.
2. Check out your favorite ocean spot at the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal and discover what other marine life enjoys your space. Every first Tuesday of the month, the Portal team also hosts webinars so you can learn how to use this interactive site better.
4. Attend a panel discussion about regional ocean planning. Check out the full length film of Ocean Frontiers II on July 28 in Long Beach and stay for a panel discussion with some of our region's plan developers. Admission is free, but please RSVP.
5. Encourage your Congressional members to support the National Ocean Policy and to fund the important work happening in the regions.
Take a minute to appreciate all that the ocean does for us. Our oceans fuel our weather and climate systems and provide a valuable source of protein. They give us every other breath we take. Our ocean economy contributes more than $342 billion to the national gross domestic product and much of this economic strength is from tourism, recreation, and fishing, which rely on healthy, functioning ocean ecosystems.
We need to encourage 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.