Tomorrow is the 6th anniversary of the National Ocean Policy, created by Executive Order 13547 to better coordinate the work of dozens of federal and state agencies with overlapping and sometimes conflicting responsibilities for addressing ocean development.
Earlier this month, the Mid-Atlantic states from New York to Virginia, along with federally recognized tribes, the regional fishery management council, and eight federal agencies, released a draft plan for the region’s sustainable ocean use. Once finalized, the plan will guide agencies’ ocean decisions—and should bring greater transparency and public involvement in decision-making. New Englanders can celebrate, too; a similar draft plan for the Northeast was issued in May.
Our Atlantic ocean is a major migratory highway and home for a vast array of marine life, including endangered whales, sea turtles, and many fish species. But it is increasingly busy with wind projects, soaring demand for offshore sand mining, and colossal cargo ships chugging through the newly-expanded Panama Canal.
The National Ocean Policy was created because, as the Mid-Atlantic plan notes:
“… there is no single entity responsible for comprehensive, integrated stewardship. Jurisdiction is distributed among numerous agencies at the Federal, State, and Tribal levels, and includes hundreds of domestic policies, laws, and regulations … [This] poses significant challenges to managers striving for efficient, informed, and coordinated decision making; challenges that have the potential to grow in severity as society seeks to accommodate new and expanding ocean uses while simultaneously protecting the health and resilience of a rapidly changing natural system.”
These new regional ocean plans are emblematic of the National Ocean Policy’s enlightened way of governing. One where—instead of working in silos and sometimes at cross-purposes—ocean managers work together to advance ocean conservation and sustainable use.
The draft ocean plans are strong starts, but we need changes to ensure a healthy ocean today and in the future. The plans must include a short, definitive deadline—ideally by the end of this year—to identify areas offshore that are important for the health of marine life and commit agencies to conserve these ecologically important areas and places of high biodiversity.
Help encourage a healthy ocean:
- Join me at an open house/ public listening session to ask for a plan that conserves the health of our Mid-Atlantic ocean’s habitat and wildlife—and the jobs, food, and recreational opportunities that depend on these resources.
- Review the plans and email your comments on the Mid-Atlantic plan to MidAtlanticRPB@boem.gov and to firstname.lastname@example.org on the Northeast plan.