Marine Spatial Planning
It’s getting crowded out there in the ocean. No, we’re not talking about the lineup at your local break.
For centuries, the oceans have pretty much been regarded as the ultimate “wild west” where anything goes. But now we’re rapidly discovering that the ocean’s resources are not limitless, and that we can negatively affect conditions in the ocean and the viability of some “ocean uses” through the improper placement and implementation of other uses. There are several new proposed uses of the ocean (alternative energy projects, LNG facilities, aquaculture projects) that are in many cases competing for the same space or potentially impacting more traditional ocean activities, including commercial and recreational fishing, boating, shipping, recreation (swimming, surfing, diving, kayaking, etc.), and oil and gas exploration and production. And many uses are potentially in conflict with maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems, increasing the need to set aside networks of Marine Protected Areas.
Marine Spatial Planning
A logical response to these increasing demands on the ocean is to institute a planning process for the near-shore ocean (the state waters for each ocean coastal state) that is similar to land use planning that states, counties and cities engage in. A Marine Spatial Planning toolkit developed by the Ecosystem Based Management Tools Network summarizes the situation this way and offers a definition Marine Spatial Planning:
The health of marine ecosystems is declining, and use conflicts in the marine environment are increasing, in part because of new needs for ocean space for emerging industries such as wind and wave energy and aquaculture. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a process for analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives. Well-conducted MSP can:
- Reduce conflicts between users and increase regulatory efficiency
- Facilitate the development of emerging industries such as wind and wave energy and aquaculture
- Help maintain ecological processes and the ecosystem services they support (such as fishing, marine tourism and recreation, and cultural uses of the ocean).
Marine Spatial Planning can also be thought of as a means on implementing ecosystem-based management, which 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."
Marine Spatial Planning is not just an issue along the coasts of the United States. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom has developed this definition:
- “strategic, forward-looking planning for regulating, managing and protecting the marine environment, including through allocation of space, that addresses the multiple, cumulative, and potentially conflicting uses of the sea”
In addition, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission has released a guide entitled Marine Spatial Planning: A Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-Based Management. The guide defines marine spatial planning, describes why it is needed, details its benefits and outputs, and illustrates how it relates to other marine management approaches.
President Barack Obama issued a June 12, 2009 memo that called for the creation of a special Ocean Policy Task Force to develop a "framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning." That framework should include an "ecosystem-based approach that addresses conservation, economic activity, user conflict and sustainable use," according to the memo. On July 31, 2009 Surfrider Foundation and two other organizations submitted a comment letter to Ms. Nancy Sutley, who is Chair of both the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Interagency Task Force on Ocean Policy. That letter stated, in part:
- “The President’s Memorandum invites comments on the use of ecosystem-based management and Marine Spatial Planning in setting ocean policy. Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is an integrated approach to sustaining the health of our natural environment and the human uses that are dependent upon it. Unlike conventional management, EBM looks at the full spectrum of activities occurring (or proposed) within an area, and develops a comprehensive strategy for lasting stewardship. Marine Spatial Planning is an integrated approach to management of the ocean environment that uses EBM.
- Our oceans and coasts are facing increasing pressure from existing uses such a shipping, fishing and recreational boating, and from new uses such as alternative ocean energy, renewed interest in oil and gas drilling and offshore aquaculture. We support the use of Marine Spatial Planning as an important tool to balance existing and new ocean uses with protection, conservation and restoration of ecologically important ocean and coastal habitats.
- The Task Force’s work is an important part of this effort. A strong National Ocean Policy built on Marine Spatial Planning, combined with improved coordination amongst all federal, state and local agencies with jurisdiction, will be needed to protect our ocean ecosystems and dependent coastal communities.”
In September 2011 the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee published Recommendations for the Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Process.
In January 2012 the National Ocean Council released a National Ocean Policy Draft Implementation Plan. That document states:
- "The NOC is developing a Handbook for Regional Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (Handbook) to assist regional planning bodies with the CMSP process. As called for in the CMSP Framework, the Handbook will provide further guidance and information intended to support the regional planning process, identify potential ways ocean.data.gov could enhance regional efforts, and provide more detailed information about visualization and analytical tools and their development to help compare proposed alternatives for future ocean uses."
A new short film from Rhode Island Sea Grant, Protecting Our Oceans Through Marine Spatial Planning, focuses on protecting ocean environments so they remain healthy and able to support the food, job, transportation and energy needs of economies worldwide. It is the final installation of a four-part series that explores ocean planning with practitioners from around the world. Visit this site to view the film and the previous three pieces:
- America’s Ocean Economy: Challenges and Opportunities: Introduces ocean planning as a tool for ocean managers and a wide range of public and private partners to collaborate on ways to share and protect ocean resources, such as fishing stocks, shipping lanes and recreational areas.
- Advancing the Ocean Economy: Renewable Energy: Presents offshore renewable energy issues as they relate to ocean planning, and shows how coastal communities in the U.S. and overseas are turning to these resources, such as wind power, to support jobs and industries.
- Ocean Planning: Enhancing and Protecting out Fisheries: Offers thinking from practitioners about how ocean planning – with its emphasis on integration across multiple resources and user groups – could help solve complicated economic, social and environmental issues challenging the fishing industry.
Our friends at NRDC have also produced a short video that does a good job of framing the issues surrounding Marine Spatial Planning.
Five states where Marine Spatial Planning is advancing are Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Oregon and Hawaii.
In Massachusetts, the Oceans Act of 2008 requires the state to develop a first-in-the-nation comprehensive plan to manage development in its state waters, balancing natural resource preservation with traditional and new uses, including renewable energy. The new Ocean Management Plan (promulgated on December 31, 2009) was developed by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in consultation with a 17-member ocean advisory commission and an ocean science advisory council. The final plan was approved in December 2009. Following is an excerpt from the Executive Summary of the Draft Plan (June 2009):
- “The ocean plan combines elements of both designated-area and performance standard-based management by establishing three categories of management area: Prohibited, Regional Energy, and Multi-Use. Under this approach, special, sensitive or unique natural resources and important existing water-dependent uses are provided enhanced protection in the siting, development, and operation of new uses, facilities, and activities. Renewable energy facilities are screened through strict compatibility criteria, and—for commercial-scale wind projects—facilities are allowed only in designated areas. The majority of state waters in the planning area remain open to uses, activities and facilities as allowed under the Ocean Sanctuaries Act, which preserves opportunity for new and emerging uses and flexibility for future changes based on new data and technologies and social values that will change over time.”
Rhode Island has developed an Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) to 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. These use zones are intended to protect or enhance current uses, including habitat and commercial and recreational uses, while providing for future uses, such as renewable energy development. Leading this project is the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), the state’s coastal management agency. Here is the SAMP Map Viewer. An article on RI's Ocean SAMP appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of NOAA's Coastal Services magazine. The Ocean SAMP was approved by CRMC in October 2010 and by NOAA in July 2011.
Check out this video that tells the story of the creation of this management plan and how it can help map the future of Rhode Island’s waters.
As part of the work of the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council, New York has initiated a spatial planning effort for marine and Great Lake waters. The effort will start by focusing on a region extending from New York Harbor out to the continental shelf, including the Hudson Canyon. Over the next two years, they will map existing natural resource and human uses, research the impacts of different human uses, develop criteria for siting activities, and identify areas to consider for offshore renewable energy and sensitive areas in need of protection or special management measures.
In Oregon, on October 16, 2008, the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) directed the Department of Land Conservation and Development to initiate a Territorial Sea Plan administrative rulemaking project. The project is intended to develop mandatory policies that will apply to state and federal agency approvals for the location and operation of ocean-based energy power generation facilities in the Oregon Territorial Sea. On December 5, 2008, LCDC appointed an advisory committee to advise the department and the Commission. Based on input and recommendations from the committee, LCDC anticipates adopting new or amended administrative rules in December 2009. Oregon has a long history of ocean planning that resulted in a Territorial Sea Plan adopted in 1994. That document noted:
- “The Council was unable to address many ocean-resource management issues during preparation of the initial plan. Therefore, the Council will continue to refine and add to the Territorial Sea Plan through plan amendments and updates to address such issues as kelp-reef special-area management, mariculture, seabed leasing, marine water quality and sewerage outfalls, dredged material disposal, ocean structures, oil and gas exploration, marine minerals, and ocean hazards. The Council is charged by law with providing the Governor with policy advice on ocean matters including new ones that will undoubtedly emerge over time.”
NOAA's National Marine Protected Areas Center has released the results of the Hawaii Coastal Use Mapping Project. The project - a collaboration between the Marine Protected Areas Center, NOAA’s Pacific Island Regional Office, the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and NOAA’s Special Projects Office - mapped 16 different uses, representing the majority of human ocean activities off the Northwestern Coast of Hawaii's "Big Island." Use data was collected during a three-day participatory mapping workshop with local experts held in September 2010. To learn more detailed project information, see use patterns in a map booklet, access spatial data viewable with GIS software and in Google Earth, and to launch an interactive data viewer, visit The Hawaii Coastal Use Mapping Project. The data viewer, built by NOAA’s Special Projects Office, allows interaction with project data and simple analysis of use patterns without the need for specialized software. Also see this fact sheet.
A somewhat related program is the Ocean Resources Management Plan which is a statewide plan mandated by Chapter 205A, Hawaii Revised Statutes. It represents a significant change in the way Hawaii approaches natural and cultural resources management in response to public concerns that the existing functional management system was not working effectively. It is based on a three-perspective framework:
- Perspective 1: Connecting Land and Sea;
- Perspective 2: Preserving Hawaii's Ocean Heritage; and
- Perspective 3: Promoting Collaboration and Stewardship.
Other states where Marine Spatial Planning (sometimes also referred to as Ocean Management, Ocean Planning or Ocean Zoning) efforts have been initiated include Delaware, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Washington. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) Portal is an online toolkit and resource center that consolidates available data and enables state, federal and local users to visualize and analyze ocean resources and human use information such as fishing grounds, recreational areas, shipping lanes, habitat areas, and energy sites, among others. In California, efforts are underway to begin to implement a workplan for Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning. Meanwhile, the California Ocean Resources Management Program includes the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative.
NOAA's Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning website provides a useful summary of regional and state Marine Spatial Planning activities.
The National Marine Protected Areas Center's Ocean Uses Atlas Project helps address a critical information gap in ocean management by mapping, for the first time, the full range of significant human uses of the ocean. Spatial data for nearly 30 ocean uses have been gathered through a series of participatory mapping workshops convened with regional ocean use experts in California and New Hampshire/Southern Maine. You can download spatial data, view mapping products, and access interactive online mapping tools for both areas by clicking on the state links.
Economic benefits associated with Marine Spatial Planning have been examined in a technical paper "Ecosystem service tradeoff analysis reveals the value of marine spatial planning for multiple ocean uses" published in early 2012. From the abstract of that paper:
- "...we show that using MSP over conventional planning could prevent >$1 million dollars in losses to the incumbent fishery and whale-watching sectors and could generate >$10 billion in extra value to the energy sector. The value of MSP increased with the greater the number of sectors considered and the larger the area under management."
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a necessary and important process being implemented at both the state and national levels to help ensure that we can continue to make use of the ocean’s resources and enjoy the ocean without degrading those resources. MSP provides Surfrider Foundation chapters an opportunity to secure protections for special places (priority ecological & recreational areas) through participation in regional stakeholder processes. Such a role is fully appropriate given the significant ecological and socio-economic benefits these places provide. Surfrider Foundation activists and all those concerned about continued protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches are encouraged to follow and participate in the Marine Spatial Planning process.
Coastal Marine Spatial Planning Advancement Training Bibliography of Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Reference Materials
UNESCO Marine Spatial Planning
National Marine Protected Areas Center California Ocean Uses Atlas and New Hampshire and Southern Maine Ocean Uses Atlas. Also see their document Mapping Human Uses of the Ocean, Informing Marine Spatial Planning Through Participatory GIS
Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan
Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan
New York Spatial Planning (click on Spatial Planning under “One Pagers.”)
Oregon Territorial Sea Plan administrative rulemaking project
NOAA Coastal Services Center Marine Spatial Planning Stakeholder Analysis (pdf)
NOAA Coastal Services Center A Review and Summary of Human Use Mapping in the Marine and Coastal Zone (pdf)
The website http://marinecadastre.gov was developed by NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to support offshore renewable energy development.