Early last week Marine Programs Director Nick Battista and I traveled to Washington, D.C., for an ocean planning "fly-in" event hosted by the Ocean Conservancy. Groups from throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic were invited to come to Capitol Hill to talk about ocean planning, including harbormasters, recreational boaters, maritime commerce, and fishermen. We also invited two Maine teachers who have been incorporating ocean planning into their classrooms to join us — John Van Dis, science teacher from Edna Drinkwater School, and Marci Train, a 3rd - 5th grade teacher on Long Island, Maine.
The fly-in was organized as a way for us to have conservations with legislators to discuss the practical implementations of ocean planning, and how the newly created Northeast Ocean Plan can benefit our island and coastal communities. By opening the lines of communication between stakeholders, federal agencies, and states and creating opportunities to discuss the shared uses of our ocean, we can work together to help make decisions, quickly and efficiently, that will impact the future sustainability of our oceans.
Over 40 people in total, representing local businesses, organizations, and those living on the ocean and in coastal communities, came together to speak with their members of Congress and decision-makers at ocean-related federal agencies about the importance of continued support for coordinated planning, engagement with ocean users, and the necessary data and research on our ocean and all of its uses that will help us make informed decisions and find solutions that will benefit everyone.
What is ocean planning?
So, what is ocean planning? Ocean planning is a way to make better, more efficient decisions about different ocean uses such as fishing, offshore energy, and recreation, as well as account for environmental changes and the health of the ocean and its creatures. Government agencies and stakeholders work together to plan for the future, and make better decisions at the regional level, to help ensure a sustainable, healthy ocean.
The Northeast Ocean Plan
The Northeast region recently finalized the nation’s first ocean plan in December 2016. The Northeast Ocean Plan incorporates New England states, tribes, federal agencies, and the New England Fishery Management Council as well as input from stakeholders.
The Plan is designed to:
- Enhance ocean stakeholder engagement
- Provide an innovative data platform – Northeast Ocean Data
- Facilitate early government coordination
Six stakeholders from Maine were invited to participate in the fly-in. During our time on Capitol Hill, we teamed up with stakeholders from Rhode Island whose focus was on aquaculture, commerce, and recreational fishing.
As one stakeholder put it, “We’re all from different industries and backgrounds, but we’re sending the same message.”
That message? Our ocean is important, and we need to plan for the future.
For more information related to ocean planning and the Northeast Ocean Plan, see these previous blog posts and articles:
- Incorporating Community into Regional Ocean Planning (4/21/15)
- Maine's congresspeople get first look at New England's upcoming ocean plan (5/13/16)
- Draft ocean plan suggests better data, coordination for users (The Working Waterfront, 5/26/16)
- Getting lobster a seat at the table (6/16/16)
- Ocean planning in the classroom (11/14/16)