On July 19, 2010, President Obama signed an executive order establishing a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes. The executive order adopts the Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and directs federal agencies to implement them. The national policy identifies coastal and marine spatial planning (marine planning) as one of nine priority implementation objectives and outlines a flexible framework for effective marine planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. Marine planning is intended to be regional in scope, developed cooperatively among federal, state, tribal, and local authorities, and include substantial stakeholder, scientific, and public input.
Americans treasure the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes as sources of food, income, energy, and security, and as places to recreate and connect with their cultural history. However, people’s uses of the ocean are expanding, and it is becoming increasingly challenging to effectively coordinate sometimes competing uses through most current management approaches, which historically were designed to manage single activities and sectors independent of other objectives. Today there is a need to consider human uses through a wider lens that broadens the view to include the connectivity and diversity of marine resources. To that end, an ecosystem-based approach to management is required, and an effective way to advance such an approach is through marine planning.
Marine plans will be developed in the regions, by the regions, and for the regions to address issues that they identify as important, that reflect their unique interests and ways of doing business, and that build on and complement existing programs, partnerships, and initiatives. These plans must be based on the meaningful, sustained engagement of stakeholders and must consider and address stakeholder interests.
The focus and content of regional plans will be defined by the individual regions themselves. While some regions may work in more detail on a greater range of issues than others, the expectation is that all regions will build the elements of their plans over time in response to what they want to accomplish, the resources available to support the work, and the time it will take for the regions to learn what works best for them.
The benefits of marine planning include
Marine planning does not impose a new regulatory scheme, top-down or otherwise. This regionally driven, bottom-up planning process in no way alters, undermines, or supersedes nonfederal legal authority, including jurisdiction or decision-making over a particular matter.
Likewise, federal agency decisions will continue to be made under existing statutory authority but will be made with the added benefit of having been informed by regionally based plans. Far from being regulatory in nature, this approach offers a roadmap for comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem and regionally based planning that will address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use.
For more information on NOAA’s role in marine planning under this framework see NOAA’s Role.