Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body Releases its Draft Regional Ocean Action Plan for Public Comment

Summary: The Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body has released the Nation’s second, draft marine plan for public comment. In another milestone for our ocean, last week, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (MidA RPB) released the Nation’s second, draft marine plan for public review and comment. The Mid-A RPB is one of the five regional planning bodies formed as a result of the National Ocean Policy, which provides a collaborative framework for ensuring the long-term health, resilience, safety, and productivity of our marine and Great Lakes waters. In addition to establishing the National Ocean Policy, the President’s Executive Order on Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts and the Great Lakes (EO 13547) also established the National Ocean Council, co-chaired by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality, to work collaboratively with the regional planning bodies to support development of marine plans.

Bluefin tuna swim in the ocean. Photo credit: NOAA. Bluefin tuna swim in the ocean. Photo credit: NOAA. The MidA RPB is a comprehensive body that comprises eight Federal agencies and departments, six states, two Federally-recognized Indian Tribes, and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The MidA RPB’s Draft Ocean Action Plan (Draft Plan) aims to increase information and data sharing across resource managers, stakeholders, and the public; enhance decision-making through improved collaboration and coordination among Federal, state, and tribal governments; and provide for an improved information and data system that characterizes human activities and natural resources in Mid-Atlantic waters.

The Draft Plan describes 40 actions for Federal agencies, states, and tribes to implement to promote a healthy ocean ecosystem in the Mid-Atlantic region. It also plans and provides for existing and emerging uses of the ocean. An example action described in the Draft Plan is to “develop a regionally appropriate strategy for marine debris reduction”--an area of ongoing Administration effort. You can read more about the Administration’s recent work to prevent and reduce marine debris here. In addition, the Draft Plan describes best practices for the use of data and information in agency coordination, including through use of a public, spatial-data portal that presents new map products for shipping, fishing, recreation, marine mammals, fish, seabirds, and many other features of the marine ecosystem. You can access the maps here.

Development of the Draft Plan began in 2013 and has included open collaboration with stakeholders, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal Team. To facilitate public outreach and input, the MidA RPB hosted public meetings and listening sessions in each State at key steps in the process. Participants in these sessions included subject-matter experts, marine industries, environmental groups, and the public. On Monday, the MidA RPB hosted a public webinar for stakeholders to learn more about the Draft Plan. Information about the MidA RPB’s upcoming public meetings and listening sessions is available here.

You can share your thoughts on the MidA RPB’s Draft Plan by submitting comments through September 6, 2016, at http://www.boem.gov/Ocean-Action-Plan/. There is also still time for you to submit comments on the Northeast Region’s Draft Marine Plan, which the Northeast Regional Planning Body released on May 25, 2016. The deadline to submit comments on the Northeast Draft Plan is July 25, 2016. Both of the draft marine plans will continue to evolve as new trends, information, and needs emerge. By sharing your insights and experience, you can help improve management of our marine ecosystems and shape the future of our ocean.

Deerin Babb-Brott is Director of the National Ocean Council.

Jennifer Lee is Deputy General Counsel and Policy Advisor for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.