Yesterday was international GIS day. And while some of you may have celebrated in a more traditional fashion (by popping champagne and finally creating that map of Westeros you’ve been going on about), we decided to address the future of marine planning.
Planning in rarely a sexy topic. That’s why the hero of every movie at some point just says “screw it, let’s just barge in guns blazing” instead of “let’s carefully and thoroughly analyze the pros and cons of establishing a presence in the area while brandishing firearms.” In reality, practically every venture or project begins with a very detailed plan. City’s, conservation programs, businesses, even first dates all require careful forethought if they’re to succeed. I bring this up because though we plan how nearly every square mile of land will be managed, we rarely do the same for our ocean.
Establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) is currently the most effective way to plan for protecting some area of marine habitat while utilizing surrounding habitats for resource extraction. However, less than 5% of the ocean is protected by some form of an MPA. And while deeper areas offshore may not require such extensive planning, exclusive economic zones (EEZs) could certainly benefit from a marine plan. EEZs are high traffic areas less than 200 nautical miles from shore that, unless they fall within an MPA, are not typically managed according to some written plan. Therefore, it can be difficult to assess what types of uses are benefiting or causing harm to the zones marine ecosystem. Establishing a marine plan for specific areas not only allows for more effective management, it also can help reduce risk, address uncertainty, and increase the quality of communication between stakeholders affected by this marine plan.
So let’s all make a push to establish a great number of marine plans in our area. This is not an attempt to restrict certain activities or solely promote one use over another. Designing a marine plan will simply allow policy makers to manage and a variety of activities within marine habitats, many of which will occur simultaneously. Creating a marine plan that is publicly accessible will also allow for greater public input, something that can help ensure the long-term support and effectiveness of the plan and ultimately the management of our oceans.
Enjoy the Podcast!