July 5, 2016
Sandy Hook, NJ -- The American Littoral Society applauds the release of a draft plan for use of the ocean in the Mid-Atlantic Region. However, release of this document is just the start of an effort to ensure that the final product contains strong protections for the region's ocean and coast.
Release of the draft Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan launches a process that will include a period of public review and comment. A final version of the plan, which incorporates input from people in the region, is expected to be formally adopted this fall by the National Ocean Council.
"The Mid-Atlantic ocean faces increasing demands on its resources, space and ecology," said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director for the American Littoral Society. "We need a strategy that will protect marine life, as well as the traditional uses and clean water economies on which our coastal communities depend. This Ocean Action Plan can be a tool to reach those goals, and we will be reviewing it and the commitments of implementing agencies, to make sure it is a blueprint that reflects the public's goals for ocean protection."
The 60-day public comment period is open through September 6, 2016. Other opportunities for public input include a series of open houses at each of the state in the Mid-Atlantic region.
"Today's release of the Ocean Action Plan is a statement that our region's decision-makers want to do right by our ocean and coastal ecosystems," said Sarah Winter Whelan, Ocean Policy Program Director for the Littoral Society. "Now it is our turn. The Draft Plan needs us, the public, to weigh in and make sure it protects our ocean and coasts."
In addition to the public meetings, there will be a free public webinar at which people can learn more about the draft plan. That event is scheduled for Mon. July 11 at 11 a.m. Click here to register for the webinar.
The effort to create a National Ocean Policy began in 2009 with an exhaustive outreach effort to coastal communities, citizens, ocean users and managers that led to a Presidential Executive Order in 2010. Ocean Planning is a key part of the National Ocean Policy, as it encourages coastal regions to develop a plan for managing their ocean or Great Lake by coordinating the work of more than two dozen agencies while reconciling competing interests in the areas of fishing, offshore energy exploration and recreational activities.
Development of specific plans is being done on a regional basis. The Northeast Region recently finalized the nation's first draft regional ocean action plan. Today's release aims to be a road map for how federal and state agencies, tribes and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council can better collaborate to ensure healthy, productive, and resilient marine ecosystems and sustainable ocean uses in the state and federal waters off Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
The ocean and coastal waters of the Mid-Atlantic region are environmentally and economically crucial. Over 34 million people call the Mid-Atlantic coastal region their home. The Mid-Atlantic ocean and coast serve as an economic engine, generating $2 trillion or 14 percent of U.S. annual gross domestic product. The ocean and coast are the hub for commercial and recreational fishing, shipping transportation to and from multiple ports, renewable energy production, high-speed telecommunications, science and research, tourism, and countless recreational interests and industries.
Demands to increase existing uses and open the area to new development drive home the need for a plan that will help protect the environment and ecosystems that draw residents, tourists and industries. The area is already struggling with issues related to multiple forms of water pollution that are harming the environment and limiting the quality of life in our coastal communities. Likewise, increased activity and disturbances in offshore areas threaten sensitive and unique habitats and ocean features.
Protecting such sensitive areas and preventing fossil fuel development are the Littoral Society's top priorities for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Plan.
"There are ecologically rich places in the Mid-Atlantic which have to be protected from new, and potentially harmful uses," Dillingham said. "We will be looking to make sure the plan gives strong protection to these areas, while maintaining environmental values such as clean water and protecting our coastal tourism economy.
"We will oppose efforts to reopen the Mid-Atlantic to oil and gas drilling, or other destructive industries," he added. "Finally, we will be watching closely to make sure the right tools are in place to ensure governmental agencies implement these policies, and include the public in ocean decision-making."
is a project website for the American Littoral Society.
The American Littoral Society promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protects the coast from harm, and empowers others to do the same.
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