The 4 Keys To Ocean Planning

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The Ocean Conservancy published a blog post summarizing their keys to good ocean planning, I thought it would be a great idea to share them with you in audio form and describe what they mean.

The 4 keys to Ocean Planning

If you follow this podcast and website, you will know that I talk a lot about Ocean planning and Marine Protected Areas. I talk about it because:

  1. I’m interested in it. If I was a doctoral researcher that would be my area of  interest; ocean planning, and marine protected areas.
  2. I talk about it because I am convinced that this is the way we will have to manage our oceans in the future.

We’ve gone too long managing the ocean like the wild wild west. Where it’s first come, first served. And each industry is managed separately. Fisheries, oil and gas, recreational industries are all managed separately. Ocean planning nowadays requires an integrated approach. Where all ocean users are brought together at the beginning of the process to consult and take part in the planning process for the ocean. This is to ensure that damage to the ocean from one user to another is mitigated. Conflicts from managing these industries separately are resolved ahead of time by working together through an upfront process.

The BP Oil spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico was devastating, not only to the oil and gas industry and to the environment. But it was also devastating to fishing and tourism industries. Because no one wants to visit, or eat seafood from an ocean that has recently been polluted by oil AND the dispersant that was used to clean up. This is something that we learned the hard way, as we sadly usually do in ocean management. We realized that an integrated approach is the way to go. We need to ensure that ocean users are not affected by each other.

In 2004 President George W. Bush enacted an ocean blueprint for the future of US oceans. This blueprint would require the country to be divided into different regions and each region would be responsible for putting together their own integrated ocean plan. The first two “Smart Ocean Plans” were created and released recently for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. The Ocean Conservancy played a role in helping these regions plan out their ocean plan. Once released, the Ocean Conservancy put out a blog post on their site that is the subject matter of this episode and article. The article was on the keys to ocean planning. Why the “smart ocean plans” were the best way to do ocean planning. So we decided to talk about them. The four ways are the following:

  1. Public participation in the project.
  2. Sound Science.
  3. Coordinated Decision Making.
  4. Adaptive Management.

Meaningful Public Participation

When you deal with different ocean users within the same region, you have to bring them together to begin the process. Everyone must air out their conflicts and concerns and what their goals are for their business, or their industry. Once that is done, and people can discuss and listen to one another, then decisions can begin to be made. The process can move forward. Without the participation of the public and the ocean stakeholders you will not have an effective ocean plan. If key users are left out, they will not be receptive to the plan, the management, or future decisions.

Based in Sound Science

The information required to make a sound plan has to be based on sound science. There is information on species distribution, migratory routes, wind and wave speeds, fishing and commercial shipping, as well as social and cultural factors that are important to communities along the coast. The information that is involved in putting a plan together must come from many different sources and must come together before you can proceed with the plan. Without sound science information there is the potential for huge gaps, and management decisions are tougher to make. What’s important in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic process is they did have sound science. They did have the participation from experts, government, and providing the data.

Coordinated Decision Making

When you have an integrated ocean plan, you must integrate the decision makers: the ocean users, and the government. Within the government you must coordinate the different levels of government to enhance communication which can obviously be difficult given the sheer amount of departments that have a say. They all have different jurisdictions and laws. In fact, there are 140 different laws that govern the ocean in the US. Which is a lot to handle. But if you have a coordinated approach and different levels of government are talking to each other that makes the process easier.

Adaptive Management

In any kind of ocean management these days, you need adaptive management clause. This cluse stipulates that: this plan will change based on any changes in the environment, and human use surrounding that piece of ocean. What adaptive management allows you to do is, if a new or existing user comes in with a new technology you can adapt your management plan to fit those new developments, address them, and implement them if applicable to the ocean plan. Without an adaptive management approach your ocean plan becomes stagnant and outdated quickly. This component is included in almost every ocean plan these days, as it is recognized as one of the most crucial components of a plan.

Those are the 4 keys to a good ocean plan. Keys that were implemented in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region plans. These plans will hopefully allow management of the ocean and their users to be much easier, and decisions made much faster to address specific concerns.

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