Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Last week a reader asked me what I thought about the Obama administrations Ocean Policy Task Force. The task force was created to:
"strengthen(s) ocean governance and coordination, establishes guiding principles for ocean management, and adopts a flexible framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes."
Sounds good in principle. One of the common themes of failed regulation and management is that it tends to be reactive. We've seen this time and again with the NEFMC, which only tends to deal with issues after they are already a problem. And even then it can be argued that the NEFMC has failed to do much of anything that includes any kind of vision for how the coastal fishery can and should operate. For example, they could strive to become a model fishery that is sustainable, delivers the highest quality product and preserves jobs and coastal communities. But they dont.

So, on the heels of Massachusetts own spatial planning effort, it looks like the federal government is endorsing the concept of "marine spatial planning". Marine spatial planning is somewhat similar to zoning laws on land. The idea is to manage competing or in some cases conflicting interests. Well done, zoning can enhance the utility of a given space. And of course, there are often problems with bad zoning.

So, to start with, it seems that any attempt to get out in front of these issues with a long term plan and vision for our oceans is a step in the right direction. And, it seems that the first and foremost concern is protecting the environment, which as an oceans objective is certainly admirable. However it remains to be seen what this means specifically for fisheries. NAMA has long advocated for eco-system based management/marine spatial planning and area based management, which are all essentially different flavors of ice cream in the same cone.

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a big topic however and one that cannot be covered in one single blog post, however it is an important topic and so next week I'll delve into more detail about and what effect it might have on ocean management.

Dont forget to sign up for the spring season!


  1. I am sort of wondering who is writing this? The about us just talks about the group....are you going to share who you are?

  2. Happy to share who I am. My name is Sean Sullivan, I work for the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA). We are one of the partners that helped start CAFC and continue to work with the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives and CAFC to support community based fishermen and help preserve and restore ocean ecosystems. I'll update the section about who we are so people will know who writes the blog. Thanks.