Healthy Oceans Blog

Ocean planning one year in – it’s a win-win

December 7 marks the one-year anniversary of the Northeast Ocean Plan and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan and implementation is already benefitting both humans and the environment.

Take a moment to close your eyes and envision a healthy ocean. What comes to mind? Aquamarine waters and thriving reef system? Cheerful children splashing in tide pools? An exhausting battle to reel in a fish? Or catching your first wave? The point being, that a healthy ocean represents a wide range of things to each of us because we utilize it in many different ways. Our waters are busy and the demand we put on them is increasing. Because of this, we need to be thinking about who is using them, where, and how in order to anticipate and develop solutions to challenges. This strategy allows for us to sustainably manage the ocean into the future – especially in the face climate change, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and increased energy demands.  

Enter regional ocean planning – a locally driven tool in our conservation toolboxes that calls for more coordination to promote responsible ocean growth that supports our families, wildlife, and businesses for generations to come. Under the directive of the National Ocean Policy – our nation’s first comprehensive stewardship policy for our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes – five of nine regions in the United States established Regional Planning Bodies made up of federal, state, and tribal governments and fisheries management councils. These regions are actively engaging in ocean planning, with the other four regions following paths that they deem appropriate to achieve ocean health.

This week, we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Northeast Ocean Plan and Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan, the first-ever plans in our country designed to include all ocean users to ensure that the views and ideas of fishermen, scientists, shipping companies, port managers, energy developers, conservationists, and those that live, recreate, and work in coastal communities are incorporated in creating better solutions for ocean health and sustainable management.

Although the plans are new and will take time to fully realize their goals, today we reflect on some of the advancements in ocean management that we have seen as a result of their implementation:

  • Dozens of state and federal agencies, tribal governments, and fisheries management councils that make decisions about offshore businesses, development, and wildlife management are operating with improved coordination – many with overlapping and sometimes conflicting responsibilities.
  • The plans identify the most pressing issues of our day and the regions are finding ways to collaboratively solve them. The National Ocean Policy and regional ocean plans encourage state and federal agencies to work together to identify and resolve conflicts early before they become problems.
  • The development and increased use of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic data portals advance our science-based knowledge, leading to better, more informed decision-making.

We are proud of and congratulate everyone involved in the development and implementation of these plans. In today’s landscape, finding solutions to ocean and coastal issues that have support of government andstakeholders are few and far between. We look forward to what 2018 will bring for ocean planning around the country.

Interested in staying in the loop on all things ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes policy and regional ocean planning? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and contact Jenna Valente at for more information on how to join the Healthy Oceans Coalition.