Creating A Blueprint For Our Coast
How can multiple, competing uses co-exist compatibly?
What’s often missing from planning is science-based information that evaluates the compatibility of conflicting uses and environmental impacts. New tools are available to help analyze current and anticipated uses of ocean and coastal areas to enable communities to achieve maximum economic and social benefits while ensuring that the ocean remains ecologically healthy.
There is a near term need to develop a regional response for our waterfront planning since the federal government is working towards a mandatory coastal waters management strategy which includes ecosystem protection.
The Coastal Communities Conference this year focused on Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) – or, as Climatide’s Heather Goldstone might suggest, Cooperative Ocean Zoning (COZ?). To start things off Stephanie Moura of the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership, John Weber of the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, and Grover Fugate of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council decribed the theory and practice of CMSP on the national, regional and state scale. They were followed by a handful of panelists presenting tools and local case studies.
As anthropogenic uses of the ocean and coastal waters increasingly conflict with each other and with ecological processes, the need for accessible high quality data and stakeholder engagement becomes more important. The success stories noted at this conference are encouraging, especially when one really puts a pen to map to figure out which ocean uses can co-exist and which ones need to be separated (an exercise that conference attendees engaged in and found incredibly thought-provoking).
One of the presenters noted that in order to manage for healthy seafood, clean beaches, resilient economies, abundant wildlife, and cultural and recreational opportunities in vibrant coastal communities, CMSP incorporates the best available science. This sort of adaptive management approach presents some exciting opportunities, especially as we learn more about processes and interactions above the ocean, on its surface, in the water column, and on the bottom. The documentary Ocean Frontiers interviewed a WHOI scientist who was tracking the movements of right whales vertically through the water column. As we learn more about how other marine organisms and processes utilize the various strata of the ocean, we can pair this with our knowledge of human uses of the depths. In a future update to an ocean plan, might we be zoning the ocean in three dimensions instead of in plan-view? Oceans change with time, too, so what about integrated temporal-spatial management?
For now, we’ll settle for cooperative ocean zoning in two dimensions, as it is a giant leap forward for balancing our needs with the health of our oceans.