Two years in the making, the Obama Administration released the final action plan to implement the National Ocean Policy this week. This “to do” list for the ocean marks a major step forward for healthy oceans, people and communities who depend on the health of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.
We are in New England, working on new Ocean Frontiers stories and what better way to dive in than to attend the 2nd Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) meeting. On Thursday and Friday last week, members of the RPB, which include Federal, Tribal, State, and New England Fishery Management Council representatives, met in Narragansett, Rhode Island. There is extensive information on the website, including the meeting materials. The meeting was videotaped, and the entire meeting will be online soon.
The Regional Planning Body is using a shared leadership approach. Betsy Nicholson, NOAA, is the Federal co-lead, Chief Richard Getchell, Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians is the Tribal co-lead and Grover Fugate, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, is the State co-lead. In addition to the 30 or so members of the RPB attending, there were 60+ people in the audience, observing the day and a half meeting. Like me, most people were impressed with the work that has been completed since the inaugural meeting in November 2012, and the level of commitment and “buy-in” of the planning body members. It was heartening to see the tribal culture and western policy and science intermingle, with people learning something quite new from one another.
On the agenda: Identify draft goals for regional ocean planning and ways to receive public input about those draft goals through early summer, timeline for accomplishing initial work, engaging stakeholders as the process moves forward, as well as their operational details. The RPB members grappled with the goals on day one and that evening the co-leads re-worked them and presented the refined goals the next morning.
The draft goals are three-fold:
- Protecting, restoring and maintaining healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems
- Promoting compatibility among current and future ocean uses of ocean and coastal waters
- Effective decision making
For those of you who live in New England, there will be public meetings at the end of May and early June in multiple locations where these draft goals will be presented, and you’ll have the opportunity to give your input. We will keep you posted on dates and locations as soon the information is available. If you would like to hold an Ocean Frontiers screening in your community in advance of these public meetings to help with citizen turnout, please contact us and we will help you set up an event – it’s super easy with our free DVDs and screening toolkit.
Initial outreach to key industry sectors is underway as well as mapping, but it’s not yet clear how the RPB will regularly or formally hear from stakeholders. That was one of their homework assignments. They heard from a number of people during the public comments that people are ready and available to share resources and knowledge with them – universities, scientists and NGOs in particular.
It’s a critical time to shift how we manage the ocean – thank you for all that you do!
Executive Director, Green Fire Productions