We’ve been attending the first meeting of the Northeast Regional Planning Body of the National Ocean Policy over the last two days. There is a lot of confusion and jargon around the National Ocean Policy and ocean planning in general, but ultimately these groups will be the ones determining how our oceans are managed for decades to come. It’s a huge mandate and one that we think it’s important to understand, so we thought we’d answer a few questions about what all this means.
What is the National Ocean Policy anyway?
The National Ocean Policy is a framework that aims to strengthen ocean governance and coordination, establish guiding principles for ocean management, and adopt a flexible framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes. For more information on the National Ocean Policy, see our Ocean Watch Essay on the subject.
And what about these Regional Planning Bodies?
There are 9 regions throughout the country, each one tasked with working from the bottom up to interpret and implement the NOP in the ways that will be most effective for their region. RPB’s are made up of Federal, State and Tribal representatives. How stakeholders and other parties are engaged will be determined by each of the regional bodies.
What will be the exact outcomes of the National Ocean Policy?
Regions will determine the scope, scale and content of plan, as well as the final product so this may vary widely throughout the country. This is driven by the needs, interests and capacity of each region, building on existing programs and initiatives. Outcomes could range from data tools intended to help with ocean management (e.g. maps comprehensively characterizing marine space) to large scale marine spatial planning efforts (see more about marine spatial planning in our previous blog posts here and here).
What’s happening in the Northeast?
This meeting here in the Northeast is the first RPB meeting in the country, and it’s very apparent that there is no road map for what is being done. Locally, however, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have both implemented their own comprehensive ocean planning that the NE Region hopes to build on as a whole.
Wait, I’m still confused. Why does the National Ocean Policy matter again?
Our good friend Richard Nelson, a lobsterman from Friendship, ME, says it best, “The obvious answers, of course, are that the ocean is our our workplace, our cultural heritage, and economically sustains us and our extended communities as it has for generations. Those of us who work on the ocean day to day live with the effects of small changes in climate and observe changes in habitat, all of which may be evident in our catch rates or how species progress through seasonal cycles. We are also solely dependent on a healthy resource that must be managed intelligently and effectively while remaining accessible to us.” Read his whole article here.
Have more questions? Let us know!