Faces of Ocean Planning: Lobsterman Richard Nelson

From his view aboard the FV Pescadero, lobsterman Richard Nelson has witnessed a lot of change along the coastline of Friendship, Maine, over the last 30-plus years.

A proud Mainer with roots generations deep, Richard feels at home on the water along the mouth of Muscongus Bay and within sight of the region’s rocky beaches and island communities.

Throughout the last three decades, Richard has watched Friendship – a small, quiet fishing community – face increasing demands on its coastal ecosystem from both fishing and competing maritime projects.

And with more new development inevitably on the horizon, Richard wonders: Are the powers that be – the state and federal agencies that make decisions about new development projects – communicating not only with each other, but with the people and businesses that call this place home?

Like all fishermen along the Maine coast, Richard views lobstering as much more than a way to earn a living. It’s a way of life that defines the rich culture, maritime history, and very identity of the people who reside along this rugged shoreline and on nearby islands.

With the Gulf of Maine facing a rapid increase in human presence and competing demands – both established and new ­– the buzz around ocean management is growing. But how can communities like Friendship, where livelihoods are inextricably linked to the sea, ensure a level playing field in ocean management conversations when they’re competing to be heard among industry, federal and state agencies, and other ocean stakeholders?

The National Ocean Policy

The answer to this question has come in the form of the National Ocean Policy, enacted by executive order in 2010. It offers the solution of regional ocean planning, which, for Richard, gave the chance for his community to be engaged.

Richard has been heavily involved in New England’s regional ocean planning process since it began. He’s attended  workshops, seminars, and conferences hosted by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, Bowdoin College, and the URI International Symposium on Marine Spatial Planning, and he has vocalized his perspective as a local fisherman at every Northeast Regional Planning Body meeting for more than three years.

His message has always been consistent: If local lobstermen in communities like Friendship are displaced as a result of poor stakeholder communication or driven out by larger competitors, they can’t simply move on and begin anew. Their economic survival and way of life depends upon being able to thrive where they are.

Richard has pressed the Regional Planning Body to envision a regional ocean plan that offers a balanced understanding between long-standing industries like the lobster fishery – and its reliance on a healthy ocean ecosystem and resources – alongside offshore wind energy, recreation, shipping, and other newer ocean uses, so they can all continue to thrive in New England.

Everybody wins

Furthermore, the data available to all parties as a result of the regional ocean plan will improve state and federal understanding of the health of the ocean’s ecosystem. Backed by the best available science, fisheries management can be improved to ensure continued access to fishing grounds while building a sustainable fishery.

The use of centralized data by federal and state entities is important not just for fisheries management. It’s also key to other regulatory actions related to marine life, marine habitat, and human uses, in that it will better inform ocean management decisions across the board.

For maritime communities like Friendship, the regional ocean plan represents a formal effort to recognize and include local community perspectives and needs, like Richard Nelson’s hope of keeping the F/V Pescadero afloat and working for years to come.

The draft of the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan will be released May 25, 2016, followed by a public comment period. Conservation Law Foundation and NEOAN (The New England Ocean Action Network) will work together to analyze and inform New Englanders about the key elements of the plan through blog posts, webinars, and more. More information will be available soon. By the fall, the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan will be finalized by the National Ocean Council.

How Do You Enjoy the Northeast Coast?

The following is a message from Surfrider:

Do you love to walk along the ocean beaches, watch the magnificent marine wildlife, surf, sunbathe, kayak, SUP (stand up paddle board), canoe, swim, or engage in any other type of recreational ocean activity?  If so, your help is needed!

The Northeast Ocean Plan is in development and decision-makers need more information on how visitors and residents enjoy the Northeast coast.  This survey is a proactive opportunity for beach lovers who are 18+ years old to provide that missing information, to help identity New England’s recreational areas and uses so they are part of the ocean planning process.

If you don’t identify your special coastal place, who will?

Take the survey today and share the link with your friends!

For more information, contact Melissa Gates or visit northeast.surfrider.org and neoceanplanning.org

 

Image via Shuttershock

National Ocean Policy Workshop a Success

Conservation Law Foundation is dedicated to supporting full implementation of the National Ocean Policy. Last week under the umbrella of the Healthy Oceans Coalition, CLF partnered with the American Littoral Society to organize The National Ocean Policy: New England Healthy Ocean and Coasts Workshop.

Recognizing the importance of our ocean and coastal ecosystems and building off  work of previous administrations, in 2010 President Obama issued an Executive Order for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes creating the National Ocean Policy (NOP). The policy includes nine national priority objectives for improving the protection and management of the oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.

Even for those working down in the weeds, the National Ocean Policy (NOP), its implementation, and it applications are a lot to wrap your head around. At the workshop we hoped to clarify confusion for those not regularly involved in the process. It was hailed as a great success.

Participants engaged in thought-provoking conversations about the NOP, conservation and restoration components of marine planning in New England, the NOP’s focus on climate resiliency and adaptation, and opportunities for stakeholder engagement and messaging techniques. In attendance were representatives from 18 New England-based organizations, such as the Watershed Action Alliance and the Coalition for Buzzards Bay. We were also joined by a member of the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) and the two co-leads of the Regional Planning Body’s Healthy and Ocean Coastal Ecosystems Subcommittee.

The presenters offered their expertise on the journey of marine planning in the Northeast and regional restoration priorities. We were also shown a tutorial on the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, which includes a wealth of data and maps that ocean managers or anyone can utilize to better understand New England’s ocean resources.

It’s safe to say that all participants left with a better understanding of the National Ocean Policy and New England Regional Ocean Planning. Now it is up to them to take the lessons back their organizations and get to work!

For more information on the National Ocean Policy, visit www.healthyoceanscoalition.org.

 

Image via Flickr

Celebrating Ocean Planning in 2014

As New Englanders enjoy the holiday season, the Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) continues to work developing a regional ocean plan, something we should all be celebrating!

The Northeast Regional Ocean Plan is the first of its kind. It will be vital for sustaining healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems, gathering important environment, economic, and social data related to the ocean, as well as engaging various stakeholders with an interest in the ocean.  In November, the RPB met for the fifth time to review plan options and make next-step decisions specifically on the Healthy Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems and Effective Decision Making goals.

At the November meeting some key decisions (found in the RPB summary document) were made related to these goals including:

  • To continue work identifying important ecological areas
  • To continue exploring options for ocean health measures and establishing a baseline for future work
  • To establish an interdisciplinary work group assigned with exploring ecosystem-based approaches for managing ocean and coastal ecosystems
  • To continue to develop “Best Available Science”
  • For the Regulatory Work Group to consider the application of best available science and specific options for agency coordination through primary permitting and leasing authorities and the National Environmental Policy Act
  • To establish inter-agency work groups to consider specific opportunities for additional agency coordination around emerging ocean uses

All of these are signs of positive forward progress in the planning process—the decision to form an interdisciplinary work group to explore ecosystem-based approaches to ocean management is of particular importance as it is a critical to the long term health of our oceans.

Ocean and coastal ecosystems run like well-oiled machines. The ecosystem as a whole is a compilation of its individual parts, and the health and productivity of the overall system relies on these parts functioning cooperatively. Each marine species, no matter how big or small, relies on another species for food, shelter, or protection. In light of a rapidly changing ocean due to climate change, maintaining these ecosystem connections is needed now more than ever.

Approaching ocean planning from an ecosystem perspective considers these connections while integrating social and economic considerations—an approach necessary to ensuring a healthy ocean and coastal economy for New Englanders.  As we look towards managing new and increasing ocean uses together with existing, traditional ocean use practices, moving towards a holistic ecosystem perspective is a must.

Help Put New England’s Ocean Recreation Hotspots on the Map!

Guest Blog by Melissa Gates, Surfrider Foundation Northeast Regional Manager. This post was originally featured on Healthy Oceans Coalition.

A new study to characterize coastal and marine recreational activity in New England has been launched to support the Northeast regional ocean planning process.  Directed by the Northeast Regional Planning Body and led by Point 97, SeaPlan, and the Surfrider Foundation, the project will collect information on a variety of recreational uses such as beach going, wildlife viewing, surfing, and kayaking.

SeaPlan is collaborating with industry leaders such as charter boat operators and event organizers to determine data collection approaches and map sailing regattas, commercial whale watching, SCUBA diving and marine events.

Surfrider is leading an opt-in online survey effort to collect data from individuals who are 18+ years of age and have visited New England’s coast at least once in the last 12 months.

The survey launched on November 13, 2014, and will be available online through midnight on April 30, 2015 (survey overview video).

Information collected through this survey includes where and how people enjoy New England’s ocean and coast in low-impact, non-consumptive ways, such as walking along the shore, wildlife watching, surfing, kayaking and swimming.  Data collected will help identify spatial information for recreational uses in the Northeast, as well as associated economic values.

Register to take the survey: http://bit.ly/NE_Rec!

The study results will be published in a final report and spatial data layers will be incorporated into the Northeast Ocean Data Portal to assist the Northeast Regional Planning Body with the ocean planning process.

“Any successful ocean planning effort relies on science-based, credible information about our ocean uses and natural resources, collected through tools like this recreational use survey.  By better understanding the regional nature of ocean activities, habitat, marine life and ocean processes, we can work together to make more informed decisions about how we manage the ocean here in New England,” says Betsy Nicholson from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and federal co-lead of the Northeast Regional Planning Body.

Coastal recreation is widely practiced throughout the United States from beach going to surfing, but little data exists on what specific activities people participate in, where these uses occur, and the related economic benefits. Reports demonstrate that coastal tourism and recreation is the largest contributing sector to New England’s ocean GDP but there is a significant gap in spatial data tying these economic drivers to the social values of specific locations. To address this need the Surfrider Foundation and Point 97 are involved in similar studies across the coastal U.S., including completed efforts in the state of Oregon as well as the Mid-Atlantic region, and a current study in Washington State.  SeaPlan has also been engaged in characterization studies, such as this motorized boater use project:http://www.seaplan.org/project/2012-northeast-recreational-boater-survey/.

To learn more about the Northeast study and Surfrider Foundation’s involvement in Northeast regional ocean planning, visit: http://bit.ly/NE_Study.

To learn about volunteer opportunities to help promote participation in this study, contact Melissa Gates at 207-706-6378 or via email at mgates [at] surfrider [dot] org.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches through conservation, activism, research and education.

Untangling our Ocean with Regional Ocean Planning

Quick – who is in charge of the ocean? Good luck answering that; ocean resources are currently managed by more than 20 federal agencies and administered through a web of more than 140 different and often conflicting laws and regulations. This results in such problems as:

  • Poor communication and coordination about ocean use decisions;
  • Slow, reactive management and decisions that drag on unnecessarily to delay or prevent good projects from moving forward;
  • Exclusion from the process – not all ocean users feel like they have a say in decisions;
  • Difficulty sharing information about uses – it’s hard to make sound decisions without having all the facts in one place.

 

Check out the short video above – our concerned octopus has a great idea for helping to change this: regional ocean planning.

Happily, New England is leading the charge in regional ocean planning, a process that brings together all ocean users – from fishermen to whale watchers, from beachgoers to renewable energy developers, to help us figure out how to share the ocean sustainably and maintain the benefits these resources provide for us all.

To learn more please visit Conservation Law Foundation’s regional ocean planning page, where we have podcasts, fact sheets, and updates on New England’s very active ocean planning process.

 

Fact: Healthy Oceans are Better for Divers

Yes, I admit it – I’m not a diver. But I am a surfer, and that makes me a stakeholder in healthy oceans, too. There is a big conservation ethic among surfers, because, in the words of one of the surfiest brands:  “Don’t destroy what you came to enjoy.”

Billions of dollars and millions of jobs are created each year by the use and enjoyment of America’s oceans and coasts.  In fact, in 2010 alone, ocean-related tourism and recreation supported more than 1.9 million jobs, and contributed almost $90 billion to the nation’s GDP. At the same time, our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes ecosystems face significant challenges to their health and their ability to provide the benefits, goods and services that we all want and rely upon.

These problems may come in the form of harmful “red tide” algae blooms which cause beach closures and damage shellfish farms in Massachusetts, expanding “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico caused by nutrient pollution runoff going into the Mississippi River, or the need for better science-based information to repair storm damage to cities and towns and to protect the public in advance of the next monster winter storm.

Being able to solve these ocean and coastal management challenges is difficult for federal and state agencies to do with the tools and resources they currently have, yet as our nation grows more along our coasts and demands more from our oceans these current management challenges are only going to become more difficult to solve.

Thankfully, we have the National Ocean Policy to help coordinate the work of our federal agencies and involve states and all stakeholders — including the public — to work together to help address some of the biggest challenges facing our oceans, and coasts.

But the best initiative the US has ever developed to promote ocean health and the importance of access for all current and future recreational users is under fire right now, and needs your voice of support!

Congress is working to pass the already problematic Water Resources Development Act and one harmful rider to that bill would eliminate the involvement of the US Army Corps of Engineers in any coastal planning, stakeholder engagement or other work that relates to the National Ocean Policy. The WRDA bill has passed the House and Senate and is in conference committee negotiations now.

Since the National Ocean Policy is implemented through current, existing laws and programs – this rider could disallow any involvement by US Army Corps in a range of issues and coastal projects that fall under their regular order of business.

Worse, some of our fellow ocean users have illogically come out in support of this harmful rider. Now is the time for responsible members of the dive community to stand up and ensure ocean health is recognized and supported.

But, check it out, there is one good idea being considered in this conference that needs our support – the establishment of a National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO) to improve ocean health and support ocean jobs and wildlife.

So consider emailing or calling your representatives and telling them “I support the Senate-passed National Endowment for the Oceans in the WRDA bill, which would help improve ocean health and maximize the economic benefits to our nation. I support the full implementation of the National Ocean Policy and oppose the House-passed Flores rider, which would place damaging restrictions on the use of common-sense ocean management tools like ocean planning and ecosystem-based management found in our National Ocean Policy.”

Cut, paste, or dial, and make a difference.

Photo credit: Josh Cummings

Now is the Time to be Part of Ocean Planning in New England!

Amazing wildlife like this feeding humpback whale, gorgeous scenery, a natural playground to enjoy with our children – there are so many reasons to appreciate New England’s ocean. But there is also an unprecedented amount of change in the ocean right now: renewable energy has hit the water, our fisheries are in tremendous flux and some of our most iconic and economically important stocks are in true peril, our waters are rapidly warming and getting more acidic, and we are seeing accelerating coastal erosion in some of our most heavily developed shorelines.

 

The consequences of coastal erosion in New England are likely to be sever in the coming decades, as seen on the coast of Plymouth, MA. Photo by David L. Ryan of the Boston Globe.
The consequences of coastal erosion in New England are likely to be sever in the coming decades, as seen on the coast of Plymouth, MA. Photo by David L. Ryan of the Boston Globe.

 

NOW is the time for you to be part of the planning process that is taking place to better coordinate our coastal and ocean uses in the face of all these changes. Everyone who cares about the ocean and how we use it should have a voice in the planning – a “seat at the table.”

 

 

Ralf Meyer, Green Fire Productions Creative Director, on location in Boston Harbor. Photo by Green Fire Productions.
Ralf Meyer, Green Fire Productions Creative Director, on location filming Ocean Frontiers in Boston Harbor. Photo by Green Fire Productions.

 

How can you get involved?

Learn about ocean planning! There is a fantastic new film called Ocean Frontiers that tells stories about ocean planning from people and places that might surprise you: farmers in Iowa, shipping companies in New England, and fishermen in Oregon – all committed to planning and doing things better for ocean health. Find an Ocean Frontiers screening near you, or host your own!

Be part of the process! We are in the throes of a first-in-the-nation regional ocean planning process, and we need you to get involved! The Northeast Regional Planning Body is holding a series of public meetings throughout New England to tell people what’s going on in ocean planning and to find out what your questions and comments are. This process is so much more effective and meaningful when people who care about the management of our ocean and coasts get involved.

Stay Informed! We will keep bringing you stories about ocean planning here and at CLF.org. Check out the New England Ocean Action Network  to stay up on the latest planning news. NEOAN is a network of diverse groups – fishermen, surfers, aquariums, conservationists, renewable energy developers, and others – who all support the ocean planning process in New England.

Does New England’s ocean inspire you, comfort you, or leave you awestruck? If you care about the ocean, then make your connection with the sea part of our new ocean planning story.