Faces of Ocean Planning | Opportunities to connect with the ocean at New England Science and Sailing

Amanda Yanchury

MaryHorrigan3Welcome to Faces of Ocean Planning, where we take you behind the scenes to feature people and organizations who use the ocean in a variety of ways and are engaged in the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan process. 

The clock reads 11am, and New England Science and Sailing, located in Stonington, CT, is quiet – though it won’t be that way for long. Soon, groups of kids and teenagers will be arriving back from their morning lessons for lunch.

New England Science and Sailing, or NESS for short, is a source of education and fun for the surrounding communities, providing programs year-round for everyone from preschoolers to adults.

Mary Horrigan, program director at NESS, gives us a tour of the facility, which she says provides a conduit for people young and old to feel connected with the ocean. “People are disconnected from this resource that’s right in their community,” she says. “One of our goals is to get people comfortable with being in the water.”

And with more people comfortable in the water, the more likely they are to understand and respect the ocean and what’s happening within it.

From adventure sports, to marine science, power boating, to, of course, sailing, NESS offers something for everyone, and with that comes an opportunity for everyone to grasp ocean planning and management concepts.

Horrigan says that all of their programming starts with making sure attendees understand the imperative to “Respect everything in the area,” whether that means catching and releasing critters as part of learning about ecosystems, or respecting other ocean users in the area. And, when your neighbors include fishermen, recreational users, and the Navy, respecting other ocean users takes a fair amount of communication and collaboration.

Expanding on local planning success

P1030941NESS’ daily operations prove to be a salient metaphor for the importance of ocean planning on both a local and regional scale. Every day, Horrigan and her students balance their activities in concert with their neighbors large and small. Just as it takes an ample amount of effort by everyone at the local level to ensure that no two uses conflict with each other, a regional ocean management plan (like the one currently in development by the Northeast Regional Planning Body) will ensure the same for all who frequent New England’s working waterfronts, coasts, and ocean.

“We’re out there using the ocean, and we need access, especially in certain areas where we want to connect to certain ecosystems,” Horrigan says. “Right now we can access the coves, but what if the submarines want to go through there?”

She says NESS’s interest in ocean planning is to provide continued access to areas for education – and in doing so, they’ll create new generations of ocean users who will benefit from and be invested in ocean management for decades to come. “The children who go through our programs learn and feel proud of the ocean and where they’re from,” Horrigan says. “We want to provide more opportunities for that.”

Facilitating future success

New England’s regional ocean plan was driven by the National Ocean Policy executive order in 2010 and will be completed in 2016. Once implemented, the plan will help stakeholders to better collaborate, share information, and facilitate effective decision-making for the management of our ocean.

As NESS fosters a growing community of burgeoning young ocean lovers, ocean planning in the northeast will provide the framework through which such stewardship can thrive for years to come.

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