Obama Administration Approves Nation's First Ocean Management Plans

Dec 8, 2016

President Obama’s National Ocean Council has approved the nation’s first ocean plans for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

The plans feature databases about the regions’ marine life and habitats. They’ll inform how to plan commercial and recreational activities at sea, while protecting those resources.

Grover Fugate, executive director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, said the databases are open to the public.

“So people can see the information that’s going into federal decisions and also state decisions,” said Fugate, “but also then to create a more coordinated decision-making process.”

Fugate said these ocean plans use existing state and federal regulations and include input from stakeholders in such industries as fishing, shipping and renewable energy.

“Over the last decade there has been a tremendous increase in the way we use our oceans,” said Priscilla Brooks, director of ocean conservation at the Conservation Law Foundation, one of several environmental groups celebrating the plans.

“We’re looking to the ocean for clean renewable wind energy as well as tidal and wave energy,” continued Brooks. “The ocean is increasingly supporting aquaculture and gas pipelines and cables. So ocean planning is an effort to get out ahead of the increasing use of our ocean and be proactive about managing it comprehensively based on science and with the best data possible.” 

Brooks said Rhode Island and Massachusetts pioneered creating ocean plans for their states and set the stage for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic plans. Other regional plans are still under development.