Can the National Ocean Council hear me now? Public supports implementation of National Ocean Policy at regional listening session

Nancy Shrodes

On Monday, June 27, the National Ocean Council (NOC) held a listening session in Exeter, NH for New Englanders to learn about and comment on the NOC’s Strategic Action Plans to achieve the nine priority objectives of the National Ocean Policy (NOP). Panels of speakers from diverse backgrounds and organizations, including the NOC, discussed the strategic action plans . However, it was a listening session, and many panelists urged that their intent was not to lecture, but to listen.

Panelists (including our own Sean Cosgrove) at the listening session. (CLF Photo)

Members of an assembled panel and most public comments held great support for the National Ocean Policy and urged its implementation. It’s not lost on ocean users that ecosystem-based management (EBM) and coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) are the foundation of the NOP and have overarching effects and influence over the other seven objectives. While discussing EBM, several speakers voiced the importance of focusing on the health of our oceans, making the case that all other objectives of the NOP could be achieved as long as the ultimate goal was a healthy ocean, which would result in both economic and environmental benefits.

Concern for stakeholder engagement was a common theme, with many noting the lack of representation of specific interest groups. Many stressed that an informed and engaged public  and communication and collaboration among a diverse array of interest groups and governmental bodies were vital to the NOP’s success. These are all points on which we certainly agree.

The event provided an opportunity for the public to voice opinions on the National Ocean Policy. (CLF Photo)

New England is already a national leader in ocean planning, and has many organizations, institutions and policies already in place to assist in the creation of New England’s regional ocean plan. We recognize the necessity of a national, comprehensive policy, but also the importance of recognizing the differences between regions and using different approaches to solve region-specific needs. Without a doubt, New England should be a priority region for the implementation of the National Ocean Policy.

Public speakers also stressed the fundamental need for fiscal resources to implement the plan. CLF’s Sean Cosgrove highlighted the need to recognize the Gulf of Maine as a nationally significant water body in the NOP and various action plans. He urged specific recognition to be written into the policy – an idea that was reiterated throughout the public comments. (Watch the video here.)

Most notably, the importance of swift and steady implementation of the NOP was of primary concern. The public didn’t want another “plan to plan.”  With ocean conservation a time-sensitive area of strong interest, constituents demanded a plan to act.

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