Mid-Atlantic Data Portal Offers Maps and Resources for Ocean Planning

September 8, 2018
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By Jenna Moldaver |

POINT PLEASANT – The Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal is a publicly available online tool that consolidates data and provides visual representations of ocean resources.

It can be accessed at portal.midatlanticocean.org. The mapping and visualization technology is available for free use in the five mid-Atlantic states, from New York in the north to Virginia in the south. The portal includes data in 12 categories, including marine life, recreation, oceanography, renewable energy and fishing.

In July, the American Littoral Society offered a free public workshop at Jenkinson’s Aquarium to introduce the portal and talk about ocean planning and management of the New Jersey coast. The event was led by American Littoral Society member Helen Henderson and Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute’s Karl Vilacoba. There were 17 attendees, including biologists, engineers and members of Clean Ocean Action.

Following the Trump Administration’s replacement of the National Ocean Policy in June, which
cut federal involvement in ocean planning and reprioritized extractive resources over the maintenance of ocean ecosystems, environmental groups are examining the potential impact on regional ocean plans, and advocating for state and local support for ocean planning in the future.

The goal of the portal is to advance the priorities of the mid-Atlantic states, which include preparing coastal communities for changing ocean conditions like sea level rises and generating data on offshore habitats for job creation.

Professionals from the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute, Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School and Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, The Nature Conservatory and Ecotrust actively work as a team in collaboration with the Mid-Atlantic Region Ocean Council representatives from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia to manage the portal and facilitate ocean planning in these areas.

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Vilacoba explained that the tool can be read almost like a weather map, with different colors signifying amounts of activity. Introducing the marine life category, Vilacoba noted the specificity and depth of the data.

“It shows specific groups and species here,” he said. Vilacoba also noted that in many categories, data goes back as far as 20 years. In total, the site contains over 3,000 maps.

The tool also invites its users to import data, which requires embedding a link from an online source with records of the findings.

This is not the first time Jersey Shore residents have been called to participate in a crowdsourcing effort to preserve environmental conditions in the region. In 2016, the New Jersey Environmental Protection Agency enforced littering laws by introducing an app that allows users to report on conditions in their area. Much like that, this portal relies on the public to submit data and engage with local environmental problems.

“The data must be published,” said Vilacoba. However, with the portal accessible to anyone interested, the availability of information and thus the productivity of ocean planning is hopeful in the mid-Atlantic region.

Participants in the workshop experienced themselves just how accessible this tool is. They each either logged in to or signed up for the portal as part of the presentation and experimented with the tools in guided exercises.

Despite legislative barriers, regional efforts reaffirm the strength of state and local interest in advancing ocean planning and prioritizing healthy marine economies and ecosystems.

This article was first published in the Sept. 6-13, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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