By Jennifer Felt, Conservation Law Foundation, JFelt [at] clf.org
New England Ocean Action Network (NEOAN) was founded on the belief that improved management of our ocean and coasts will provide substantial benefits to all ocean users. This is why our membership is so diverse. We have fishermen, surfers, environmental groups, aquariums, and renewable energy industry representatives, all working together to promote regional ocean planning.
NEOAN members know that an important part of ocean planning is a robust public participation process, in which New England’s ocean and coastal users are fully engaged. This was the message delivered loud and clear by NEOAN members at New England’s second Regional Planning Body (RPB) meeting in Narragansett, Rhode Island April 11 and 12th. NEOAN was founded to promote public participation in this process – and NEOAN is participating. Seven members of NEOAN provided official comments to the RPB, emphasizing the importance of effective and meaningful stakeholder engagement.
NEOAN will continue our work to advocate for stakeholder participation as ocean planning activities in New England ramp up. The RPB will be hitting the road with a series of public meetings in late May/early June in each of the New England states. (Stay tuned here for more on that.) NEOAN will work to ensure that a diverse group of interests are present and have the opportunity to participate in these meetings. And NEOAN will advocate for more opportunities for meaningful participation, involvement, and information sharing by everyone who has a stake in how our oceans are managed.
Auspiciously, just a few days after New England’s RPB meeting, the National Ocean Council released the long-anticipated National Ocean Policy’s Implementation Plan. The White House press release announcing the release of the implementation plan quoted three NEOAN members:
“We who work on the water daily see the direct effects of changes caused by ocean acidification or increases in ocean temperatures. As a lobsterman I’ve come to think of the Gulf of Maine as being unique and precious, and deserving of all our efforts at stewardship and protection that the National Ocean Policy and Ocean Planning will enable.”
Richard Nelson, Lobsterman from Friendship, Maine
“We’re excited to see a final plan from the National Ocean Council that has real actions to protect our coasts and oceans. By providing support for ocean planning, the plan will help ensure that new industries like offshore wind power do not unnecessarily impact the marine ecosystem and human uses like recreation and fishing.”
Pete Stauffer, surfer and Ocean Program Manager with Surfrider Foundation
“Full implementation of the National Ocean Policy is what we need to protect, maintain and restore New England’s ocean and coasts. Conservationists, fishermen, scientists, boaters, surfers, clean energy advocates and community leaders are all working together because we understand the value of stewardship and getting out ahead of ocean use conflicts by doing smart planning for our oceans.”
Priscilla Brooks, VP and Director of Ocean Conservation, Conservation Law Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts
NEOAN was created to support a better way of planning for the future of New England’s ocean. We are working hard to let our decision makers know that we care about keeping all stakeholders involved in the process. It’s good to know that we are being heard.
This piece was originally published on 26 April on the Conservation Law Foundation blog.
Jennifer Felt is Manager of Ocean Planning Outreach for the Conservation Law Foundation. In this position Jennifer works to build and expand a diverse, multi-stakeholder network for regional ocean planning across New England and helps to develop the nation’s first regional ocean plan. Prior to CLF, Jennifer was at the Marine Conservation Institute, where she worked for five years in Washington, DC and New Hampshire. Previously, she worked for Humane Society International in Latin America and the Caribbean, served in the Peace Corps in Honduras.