Protecting the Health of Our Mid-Atlantic Ocean

October 25, 2015
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trtenvelopeBy the American Littoral Society

Everyone needs healthy oceans. But, we don’t always have them because of chronic pollution and increasing demands to industrialize the ocean. Our fisheries, in particular face the loss of nursery areas, destruction from power plants, and threats from hormone mimics.

Full implementation of the U.S. National Ocean Policy is necessary to address the complicated and interrelated issues affecting the ocean and coastline we both need and enjoy. And everyone can play a role in making that happen.

The Atlantic and its seacoast is woven into the fabric of our lives. Most of us have cherished memories of days on the beach, hours fishing, surfing or sailing the waters.

Many still make a living from our ocean and bays; the fish and shellfish they produce, or the harbors and ports they provide. The Mid-Atlantic marine economy brings $2 trillion (over 14% of U.S. gross domestic product) into the U.S. economy. Recreational fishing in New Jersey is worth over $1.9 billion annually and creates over 13,000 full- and part-time jobs.

Clearly, there are powerful emotional and financial reasons to keep our ocean and coasts healthy.

Good stewardship of our ocean and coasts demands strong laws and policies designed to balance many competing interests. However, decisions affecting the ocean have long been made by a host of state and federal agencies. Unfortunately, we have seen that these bodies can’t break free of the decades-old, species-by-species, agency-by- agency decision-making approach. That fragmented process has led to conflict with and distrust.

Amidst that our ocean and coast have suffered.

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A comprehensive U.S. National Ocean Policy, brought to life through regional ocean planning, aims to change the process to reflect what fishermen and coastal citizens already know: our ocean and coasts are intertwined and require coordinated management based on real data and local stakeholder involvement.

Ocean planning is exactly what it sounds like: creating a plan to sustainably use and protect our ocean and coastal regions. It doesn’t create new laws or regulations. Instead, it creates a process that puts all involved agencies in a room with those who use the ocean under the directive that they work collaboratively to ensure a healthy Mid-Atlantic ocean for this and future generations.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure this plan reflects our input and becomes a tool we can all use to ensure efficient and wise management and protection of our region’s diverse marine ecosystems and the marine wildlife that depend upon them.

In the end, the answer to the failure of current practices and policies is to stop complaining about what does not work and create new pathways for more effective management. Full implementation of the National Ocean Policy and Mid-Atlantic ocean planning is one such pathway. We should embrace ocean planning and urge our elected officials to do likewise.

Because the one thing we should all be able to agree on is that everyone needs healthy oceans.

 

David Hawkins

Communications Manager

American Littoral Society

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