Massachusetts Leads the Nation by Passing First Ever Comprehensive Ocean Planning Bill Massachusetts Ocean Act will Help Managers Balance Commercial and Recreational Activities with Conservation Needs – Preserving the Marine Economy and Environment

Brian Barth

Colin Durrant, CLF Director of Communications

Boston, MA (May 23, 2008) – Late last night the Massachusetts Legislature passed the Massachusetts Ocean Act, calling for the creation of a comprehensive plan to manage the Bay State’s ocean waters. This plan will be the first of its kind in the nation and will apply to the first three-miles of ocean territory off the Massachusetts coast. The bill now heads to the Governor for his signature.

The legislation, sponsored by Senate President Therese Murray, Senator Robert O’Leary and Senator Bruce Tarr, ends decades of ad hoc decision making by placing oversight, coordination, and planning authority of the state’s ocean resources with the Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. That authority will be exercised through an ocean management plan and advised by a broad-based, 17-member ocean management commission, including state agency representatives, state legislators, municipal officials, and environmental, fishing, and marine industry stakeholders. Most importantly, the legislation provides for a balanced and coordinated plan for growth.

“We hope the Governor will move quickly to sign this landmark legislation. The MA Oceans Act provides the foundation for sensible planning in our ocean waters that balances economic growth with protection of marine wildlife and underwater habitat,” said Priscilla Brooks, Director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Ocean Conservation Program. “This is a critical step forward in stewarding our ocean’s health for future generations.”

Growing demands on ocean resources from industry, fishing, and other uses prompted the Massachusetts Ocean Management Task Force – a 23 member team of diverse stakeholders – to recommend new and comprehensive laws give public agencies clear direction and stronger authority for managing state waters.

“Right now, it’s the wild west off the Bay State’s coast,” said Jack Clarke Director of Public Policy and Government Relations for Mass Audubon. “This bill is an opportunity to manage ocean sprawl based on sound science, smart economics and sensible management principles.”

Using the best available scientific understanding of ocean wildlife and underwater habitat, the management plan will help state decision makers identify and capitalize on opportunities to encourage development in locations that are well suited for it, while discouraging inappropriate or wasteful development that causes more harm than benefits to the marine ecosystem and the future sustainability of the Commonwealth’s marine economy.

The ocean is the economic backbone of Massachusetts’ coastal communities and a critical part of our quality of life. The Bay State’s coastline and state ocean waters support 152,000 jobs, generate $4.3 billion in income each year for the Commonwealth, and provide countless recreational opportunities. But current laws are not equipped to handle the new and growing demands being placed on our ocean. The Massachusetts Ocean Act will help the state balance commercial and recreational activities with protection of critical underwater ecosystems.

“The Massachusetts Ocean act provides the most comprehensive approach in the nation in dealing with ocean planning. We hope this will set a precedent for the rest of the country in implementing meaningful changes in the way we care for our ocean”, said Susan Farady, New England regional director with Ocean Conservancy. “Massachusetts coastline, like many others around the country, is facing increasing pressure from development, and we need to be smart in how we grow the coastal economy and care for our resources.”

To learn more about the legislation and the Massachusetts Ocean Coalition please visit:


The Conservation Law Foundation works to solve the environmental problems that threaten the people, natural resources and communities of New England. CLF’s advocates use law, economics and science to design and implement strategies that conserve natural resources, protect public health, and promote vital communities in our region. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization. It has offices in Boston, Massachusetts; Concord, New Hampshire; Providence, Rhode Island; Montpelier, Vermont; and Brunswick, Maine.

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