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| ||Figure 1. California’s Channel Islands illustrate the potential for conflict and fragmentation of management of human uses of marine areas. It is important to note that this figure, as complicated as it is, does not include the many "non-consumptive" uses of the ocean such as surfing, diving, swimming and sailing. (Click image to open larger version.) Source: Resolving Mismatches in U.S. Ocean Governance |
In a Crowded Ocean, Marine Conservation Requires Good Planning
Healthy oceans are directly tied to a healthy economy. In 2004 our oceans provided approximately $95.9 billion in goods and services, and 1.8 million jobs from fishing, tourism, recreation and shipping (see NOEP
). These industries rely on robust ecosystems and good governance to continue to thrive. With mounting proposals for new development in the oceans, such as offshore renewable energy projects and aquaculture, it is important to manage these new activities in a way that keeps our oceans, and our economy, healthy. Marine spatial planning promises to help protect and restore ocean ecosystems while minimizing negative impacts and conflicts from human activities. Marine spatial planning
(MSP) is the process of analyzing and allocating ocean space for specific uses in order to achieve specified ecological, economic and social objectives. Ideally, MSP is the first step in a comprehensive and adaptive ecosystem-based management approach.
Worldwide, our ocean systems are experiencing a silent collapse
as a result of pollution, destruction of productive marine habitat, increased strain on fish populations and global warming-induced impacts, such as higher water temperatures, shifts in currents and acidification. The oceans already host shipping, fishing, defense, aquaculture, energy production and many types of recreational activities. Increased activities and development, if not carried out wisely, will cause "ocean sprawl," further stress our valuable ocean resources, and jeopardize the food, jobs and recreation the oceans provide.
Not only does new and expanding ocean activity threaten marine life and ocean ecosystems, it also presents increased potential for conflicts between different types of activities with incompatible objectives. For example: fishing groups are concerned
that renewable energy development in the ocean will oust them from fishing grounds; ship-collisions can be lethal for marine mammals; and scientists have proven that military sonar
can injure and even kill whales and other marine mammals. Box 1 lists some of the human uses of ocean space. Figure 1 provides a visual illustration of the ways these uses overlap. As complicated as Figure 1 is, it does not even account for the many "non-consumptive" uses of the ocean such as surfing, diving, swimming, bird-watching, sailing and more.
Land-based spatial planning and zoning provide historical context and important lessons for MSP in the oceans. Good planning in busy urban areas is critical to making a city enjoyable and functional for its residents. Some cities that were originally poorly planned, like Toronto
, are revitalizing their centers by concentrating restaurants, shops and other businesses within walking distance of homes and offices, while improving the aesthetics of downtown areas. Places in California with poor planning and sprawl - which require residents to drive everywhere - have been particularly hard hit by the mortgage crisis
, and have come under fire
for their high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Although land-based spatial planning differs from MSP for a number of reasons
- different governance structures, ownership and rights, the three-dimensional and dynamic nature of the sea, and a lack (compared to land) of detailed mapping of the oceans - the rationale and good practices from the terrestrial context can be applied to the marine context.
| Box 1. |
Examples of the human uses of ocean space
Source: Visions for a SEA CHANGE, Report of the First International Workshop on Marine Spatial Planning, http://www.unesco-ioc-marinesp.be/uploads/documentenbank/322a25f624fcb940dc70d0b3b510de24.pdf
- Commercial Fishing
- Recreational Fishing
- Oil & Gas Exploration and Production
- Renewable Energy Production (e.g., wind, waves)
- Sand and Gravel Mining
- Dredged Material Disposal
- Recreation and Tourism
- Offshore Housing, Factories, Airports
- Pipelines, Cables, Transmission Lines
- Military Activities
- Scientific Research
- Marine Protected Areas
- Cultural and Historic Conservation (e.g., ship wrecks)
Fragmented governance increases the potential range and severity of conflicts across sectors of ocean users such as aquaculture, energy production facilities and ecosystems. (See Figure 1, above.) Two seminal federal reports and many other studies
have determined that ocean health is undermined by poor governance: lack of coordination, a mismatch between the scale and purpose of governance mechanisms and the needs of ecosystems, and, in the U.S., at least 20 federal agencies working to implement over 140 federal ocean-related statutes.
To ensure our oceans’ environmental and economic health, we must pair new development in marine spaces with ocean protection, in part through application of ecosystem-based management (EBM). Ecosystem-based management has been widely accepted as the concept that underpins good ocean governance (see Box 2 for details).
|Box 2. |
What Is Ecosystem-Based Management For The Oceans? Ecosystem-based management is an integrated approach to management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans. The goal of ecosystem-based management is to maintain an ecosystem in a healthy, productive and resilient condition so that it can provide the services humans want and need. Ecosystem-based management differs from current approaches that usually focus on a single species, sector, activity or concern; it considers the cumulative impacts of different sectors.
Specifically, ecosystem-based management:
Source: Scientific Consensus Statement on Marine Ecosystem-Based Management, Released March 21, 2005 http://www.compassonline.org/pdf_files/EBM_Consensus_Statement_v12.pdf
- emphasizes the protection of ecosystems and overall ocean health;
- is place-based in focusing on a specific ecosystem and the range of activities affecting it;explicitly accounts for the interconnectedness within systems, recognizing the importance of interactions between many target species or key services and other non-target species;
- acknowledges interconnectedness among systems, such as between air, land and sea; and
- integrates ecological, social, economic and institutional perspectives, recognizing their strong interdependences.
Properly executed, MSP can be a holistic EBM approach to addressing social, economic and environmental objectives, including long-term sustainability, in our oceans. MSP offers many potential environmental benefits over the current, fragmented approach to ocean governance:
- Comprehensive planning for, and management of, the cumulative impacts of myriad human activities in the ocean;
- Identification of ecologically important and sensitive areas to ensure that activities (such as the siting of renewable energy projects) do not jeopardize sensitive ocean resources; and
- Improved quality, transparency and efficiency of decision-making in a geographic and regulatory area that is highly complex.
Many groups are looking to MSP for its promise in managing the objectives of a diverse array of activities. For example, fishing groups in Oregon have realized the importance of spatial mapping as part of the State’s commitment to marine spatial planning. On the east coast of the U.S., interest in development of offshore wind projects has motivated states - particularly Massachusetts , Rhode Island and New York - to develop an MSP approach (see below).
Essential Elements of MSP
Various governments have developed their MSP approach in different ways. Some started with mapping and planning for only one or a few uses or purposes, gradually adding layers of planning for new uses. Australia’s MSP
began with planning for protected areas. Others, such as the Netherlands
, launched an integrated, comprehensive approach from the outset. Consultants from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have conducted workshops and extensive study to distill the key characteristics of good MSP (see Figure 2 below). In May 2009, they will release a set of guidelines for MSP
Key characteristics of good MSP:
- Ecosystem-based, with biodiversity conservation as an explicit goal
- Area-based on a large enough scale to cover ecosystems
- Factors in multiple objectives - ecological, socio-economic and governance
- Integrated across economic sectors, government agencies and with other spatial management plans, such as marine protected areas
- Takes a long-term perspective
- Integrates adaptive management, which includes monitoring and evaluation
- Developed through a highly participatory process
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| ||Figure 2. (Click image for larger version.) |
Source: Fanny Douvere & Charles Ehler, "International Experience with Marine Spatial Planning"; Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and Man & Biosphere Programme (MAB), UNESCO; Presentation; 13-14 August 2008, New York.
While this article primarily discusses planning, as Figure 2 demonstrates, planning is only one element of the marine spatial management process. This process includes additional elements of implementation, enforcement, monitoring, evaluation, research, public participation and financing - all of which must be present to carry out effective management over time. Ideally, a successful MSP approach will produce a comprehensive ocean plan, developed through stakeholder outreach, collaboration and consensus building, which includes the following components:
- Authority to engage in MSP.
- Financing of the MSP development, implementation, monitoring and future iterations of spatial management.
- Stakeholder participation, made effective by selecting the right group of stakeholders, ensuring they have the opportunity for meaningful participation.
- Pre-planning, including developing the planning team; organizing ecological and economic information; establishing the exercise’s principles and goals; defining the area boundaries for analysis and management; and setting conditions, including timeframes.
- Analysis, including characterizing and mapping of existing conditions; estimating of future conditions and possible conflicts; specifying objectives, targets and indicators for management, and criteria for evaluating these measures; cost/benefit analysis; specifying what authorities/institutional arrangements will implement these measures; and presenting the plan.
- Plan adoption and implementation, which requires effective interdisciplinary communication between the scientists and policy-makers.
- Monitoring and evaluation, including conducting applied research, adapting measures or revising the plan as needed to accomplish the selected goals.
- Capacity building to ensure future iterations of planning and management can be pursued.
Examples of MSP in the U.S.
Many groups look to MSP for its promise in managing the objectives of a diverse array of activities. MSP has been applied around the world - Australia, Canada, China, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand have all implemented, or are working on, some form of MSP. A number of states are already well on their way to implementing MSP in the U.S.Massachusetts Ocean Plan
Massachusetts is currently developing a comprehensive ocean management plan
, following a scientific and stakeholder process. Their Oceans Act of 2008 mandates the development of a comprehensive ocean management plan for a Massachusetts waters and submerged lands. Massachusetts’s ocean management plan, which is due in final form by December 31, 2009 , and to be made available for public review six months prior, will be formally incorporated into the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Plan and enforced through the state’s regulatory and permitting processes. The adopted plan’s baseline assessment and enforceable provisions of relevant statues and regulations is to be reviewed at least once every five years. E2 New England was actively involved in getting the Massachusetts Oceans Act passed - see our webpage on this advocacy project
. Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan
The Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP)
will define use zones for Rhode Island’s ocean waters through a research and planning process that integrates the best available science with open public input and involvement. To be prepared between 2008 and 2010, the Ocean SAMP will zone offshore waters for diverse activities including renewable energy development. This process will also protect current uses and habitats through zones for commercial fishing, marine transport, and critical habitats for fish, marine animals and birds. The SAMP is designed to help the state reach its goal of meeting 15 percent of its energy needs through renewable energy, primarily from offshore wind.Spatial Planning for New York Ocean and Great Lakes
New York recently provided information to its citizens about the state’s intention to engage in spatial planning for New York’s
ocean and Great Lakes waters. The State will begin mapping a region extending from New York Harbor out to the continental shelf, including the Hudson Canyon. In the next two years New York intends to: (1) map the existing natural resource and human uses in this ocean region; (2) research the impacts that different uses have on natural resources; (3) develop criteria to guide the siting of certain activities in a specific location; and (4) create an ocean use plan to identify areas appropriate to consider offshore renewable energy and sensitive areas in need of protection or special management measures. E2’s New York chapter has been following these developments; see supporting activities from June 2006
and October 2007
. Oregon’s Amended Territorial Sea Plan
Oregon’s Governor Ted Kulongoski, responding to the excitement from the renewable energy industry and the corresponding nervousness from fishing groups about the effect of such development on access to fishing grounds, issued an Executive Order requiring that Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan be amended to incorporate a comprehensive provision for the siting of wave energy. A local pilot initiative, led by the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association
has begun to map key fishing grounds; the state intends to expand this effort statewide and out to the continental shelf, to be completed by 2010. The data from the mapping will then be fed up to the state-level MSP policy approach, used by the state’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council to amend the Oregon Territorial Sea plan. California Marine Protected Areas as a Cornerstone of MSP
California is currently engaged in a form of spatial planning with the designation of a network of Marine Protected Areas
throughout the state. Although this process does not spatially map a broad range of uses, in the example of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
, protected area designation is an important starting point for broader spatial planning. Stanford law professors have found
California’s fragmented, largely use-based and reactive legal and regulatory regime ill-equipped to address the current and future challenges in ocean resource management. EBM-based spatial planning can improve California’s ocean governance - building on the foundation laid by with the designation of marine protected areas - to create an integrated, comprehensive, publicly accountable and politically viable regime to manage all ocean uses while protecting marine ecosystems. E2 chapters in California have been involved in expanding the network of Marine Protected Areas - see our webpage on this advocacy project
Ocean Renewable Energy: A Test Case for National MSP?
The Electric Power Research Institute
has estimated that renewable energy technologies in the oceans - including wind, wave, current and tidal energy - have the potential to supply up to 10 percent of today’s electrical demand, making a significant contribution to greenhouse gas reduction.
While ocean renewable energy is appealing, enthusiasm for installing devices in the ocean must be tempered by acknowledgment that these devices will have impacts on the environment and coastal communities. There is limited knowledge about the extent of these impacts because there have been very few pilot projects and, therefore, minimal field-testing of ocean renewable energy technologies, especially wave, current and tidal - collectively referred to as hydrokinetic energy.
MSP can help ensure the successful development of environmentally sound ocean renewable energy projects by:
- Ensuring that all renewable energy projects are sited to minimize negative environmental and social impacts and use conflicts through a coordinated process that engages all relevant state and federal agencies and non-governmental stakeholders;
- Providing greater certainty for regulated communities, which helps reduce the commercial risk and net regulatory burden for many types of industries operating in the ocean;
- Facilitating the collection of baseline data to understand the best, and worst, areas for the installation of small-scale pilot projects (pilot projects are much-needed to better understand the environmental and other impacts of untested ocean renewable energy technologies);
- Allowing for more efficient use of available marine space and resources, particularly as industrial activities are directed towards optimal locations, while conservation and resource protection are prioritized in the most ecologically sensitive areas; and
- Reducing conflicts and opposition to various uses through increased understanding of and proactive planning to address potential adverse impacts.
MSP initiatives for ocean renewable energy siting can also serve as a springboard toward a more comprehensive MSP-based approach that incorporates a broad range of ocean uses, including the conservation and protection of ocean ecosystems. NRDC is working at both the state and the federal levels to assess and pursue opportunities to apply MSP in the U.S.
Our thanks go to Leila Monroe, Policy Analyst in NRDC’s Oceans Program, for preparing this article. For more information on this article or on NRDC’s MSP work, please contact Leila at email@example.com.
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