Marine Spatial Planning

America has entered a unique period concerning governance of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. We are rapidly losing marine biodiversity while increasing our demand for the oceans’ services including food, recreation and energy.

Approximately 20 federal agencies now administer more than 140 different and often conflicting laws and regulations that impact the oceans and Great Lakes; diverse state laws add further complexity. The sheer number of different governmental programs invites inconsistent goals, as well as dysfunctional decision-making.

Our new National Ocean Policy for our coasts and Great Lakes, if properly implemented, will help our nation rebuild over exploited fisheries, protect endangered species, restore vulnerable habitats, and develop measures to deal with ocean acidification, warming waters, and sea‐level rise. It will also strengthen the nation’s economy by providing jobs, energy, food and our country’s leading place for real estate, recreation and tourism.

Comprehensive, ecosystem‐based coastal and marine spatial planning will manage our diverse mosaic of ecosystems to protect and recover the diversity and abundance of marine life and the services they provide. Coastal and marine spatial planning can produce “win‐win” outcomes, both conserving biodiversity and fostering economic activities that are compatible with ocean health.

Marine Conservation Institute works to advance the practice of coastal and marine spatial planning in the United States as well as around the world. Here in the US, our efforts are currently focused on making sure our new National Ocean Policy is properly implemented and enforced to give adequate protection to vulnerable marine ecosystems. Given the importance of marine and coastal ecosystems, we should be investing more in monitoring, researching, protecting, and restoring the health of these systems to promote their resilience so that they can better recover when disasters happen, whether man-made or natural.