Powerful Partners Team up for Nation’s first Regional Ocean Plan

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By Robin Just, Conservation Law Foundation, rjust [at] clf.org

Ocean planning is a practice proudly developed in New England – you need only look at the success of the Massachusetts Ocean Plan and the Rhode Island Special Area Management Plan (SAMP), as well as ways that ocean planning already works in the Northeast. The success of these new planning efforts lies in the dedication of New England’s diverse ocean users and the realization among state leaders that our region needs a better way to grow our economy and maintain our ocean’s health and our quality of life. The Northeast’s planning effort will effectively get underway on Nov, 19th, when the country’s first regional planning body convenes in Portland, Maine, for its inaugural meeting.

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has long been at the forefront of promoting ocean planning in New England. CLF believes the current and future challenges that New England faces in maintaining our healthy ocean and coasts, fostering responsible economic development, and tackling the twin-headed hydra of climate change and ocean acidification relies on the establishment of a better process for all ocean uses and ocean users to work together. Good planning requires good partners.

This is why we are especially excited to announce a new regional network of ocean users supporting the National Ocean Policy. CLF has joined together with dozens of groups throughout New England, including the Maine Coast Fishermen’s AssociationSurfrider Foundation, Massport, the New England AquariumSierra Club chapters, and the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association to help build a sustainable future for New England’s ocean, coasts, and the communities that depend on them.

Founded to support the development of the nation’s first regional ocean plan, the New England Ocean Action Network (NEOAN) brings together individuals and organizations from the region’s environmental community, educational and research institutions, fishing industry, clean energy field, recreational ocean users, and other industries and stakeholders to advocate for a healthy ocean and thriving economy. We all share a belief that regional ocean planning can help us coordinate our activities while minimizing and mitigating conflicts among ocean users and protecting healthy ecosystems. Visit NewEnglandOceanAction.org to find out more about who we are and to learn more about regional ocean planning.

NEOAN members know that New England’s coast and ocean are among our region’s greatest economic, environmental, and cultural assets – bringing over $16 billion annually to our region’s economy. Safeguarding the natural environment and improving the management of our coast and ocean through a comprehensive ocean planning process will help to grow our region’s coastal and maritime economy, restore and protect ocean and coastal ecosystems, and recognize New England’s unique maritime heritage.

This is why NEOAN supports, monitors, and comments on efforts to develop a comprehensive, region-wide ocean planning process and will advocate for the development of a plan that:

  • Is developed through an open and transparent process that includes the full participation of New England’s ocean and coastal users and coastal communities;
  • Uses the best available scientific, economic, and cultural data, legal information, and local knowledge;
  • Acknowledges the economic and cultural importance of the commercial and recreational fishing industries, as well as other historical ocean users;
  • Supports the sustainable development of both our ocean resources and our local and regional economies;
  • Seeks to minimize the impacts of human-induced climate change and ocean acidification;
  • Maintains adequate federal funding for ocean planning efforts;
  • Fosters cooperation between federal, tribal, state, and local agencies and governments;
  • Protects, restores, and maintains clean coastal waters and healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems for the benefit of human communities and marine wildlife;
  • Educates ocean users, the public, regional decision makers, and stakeholders about the need and value of a comprehensive regional ocean plan and planning process.

A good plan needs a good planning process, and a good planning process gives everyone a seat at the table and a voice. CLF and our partners in NEOAN will work to advocate for an open, transparent, and participatory planning process and will work with stakeholders and the public to help them understand the planning process and the importance of participation.

Robin Just works with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) to build awareness of regional ocean planning in New England by forming partnerships with other ocean users, reaching out to ocean researchers, media outlets, and advocacy groups, and other stakeholders, and by writing blogs and other outreach material to promote CLF’s regional ocean planning mission. Robin is a stakeholder in her own right - as an avid surfer of New England’s waves.

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