National Ocean Council Blog

  • The Ocean Affects All of Us Every Day

    We've been here only a few short months, but in that time we've more than just gotten our feet wet, so to speak, implementing the National Ocean Policy. Now, one year after President Obama created the first comprehensive policy for the stewardship of the oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes, is a good time to reflect on the value of this national effort, and to take stock of the progress we have made in advancing ocean stewardship.

    Perhaps you are one of the millions of Americans who are spending part of their summer visiting the seashore or the Great Lakes. You may be enjoying that grilled salmon, perch, or striped bass freshly caught by a local fisher. You may be spending time with your friends and family outside in the sunshine and water. But our waters do more than just provide sustenance and recreation. They support our communities and drive our national economy in countless ways, providing jobs not just on our shores but in every state in the Nation. Wherever we live, the ocean affects all of us every day. The National Ocean Policy helps focus our attention and efforts on the most critical issues facing our oceans and coasts. It also establishes a collaborative, regionally based planning process to ensure healthy and productive ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources for generations to come. 

    Here are a few milestones reached under the National Ocean Policy to date: 

    • convened the Cabinet-level National Ocean Council to take action on our most pressing ocean policy issues;
    • formed a Governance Coordinating Committee consisting of state, local, and tribal representatives that will serve as a key coordinating body on ocean policy issues;
    • hosted the Unites States’ first ever Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Workshop, bringing  together hundreds of representatives from all levels of government as well as stakeholders and members of  the public, to strengthen partnerships for a regional approach to better managing our oceans;
    • released for public comment draft outlines of strategic action plans with specific, measureable actions the Federal government can take to address key challenges facing our oceans, coasts, and Great  Lakes, including climate change, ocean acidification, coastal pollution, and changing conditions in the Arctic; and
    • hosted twelve public listening sessions across the country to ask Americans for their views on the actions they want to see to sustain and protect our oceans.

    Successful ocean stewardship requires action and engagement from all levels of government, all stakeholders, and all Americans. We will continue to make sure you have opportunities to share your  thoughts and feedback on what you care most about, and where you think we should be focusing our attention. While we have much work ahead of us, we have the highest confidence that together we can ensure healthy and productive ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources, and a healthy and prosperous America.

    Jay Jensen is Associate Director for Land and Water Ecosystems at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

    Steve Fetter is Principal Assistant Director for Environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

  • Joining Forces for Our Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes

    Last week, the National Ocean Council brought together more than 500 Federal, state, tribal, and local government representatives, indigenous community leaders, and other stakeholders and members of the public from across the country for a National Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) Workshop in Washington, DC. An additional 260 participants joined us online for the Workshop webcast. The workshop kicked off a major program of regional collaboration to advance the stewardship of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes—and by all accounts it provided a great start to achieving this important goal. 

    We heard from participants how cooperative ocean and coastal planning can be used to create jobs, help secure energy independence, enhance recreational opportunities, and maximize the uses of our Nation’s working waters while ensuring their conservation for future generations. We also discussed how our country’s first comprehensive National Ocean Policy engages tribal nations as equal partners alongside states and the Federal government to produce a balanced plan that serves all Americans who have equities in  our ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. 

    The workshop was part of a growing conversation among our partners and stakeholders in the Nation’s regions to establish regional planning bodies that will work collaboratively to develop comprehensive regional coastal and marine spatial plans.  Among the key issues discussed at the workshop were: 

    • The importance of science and evidence-based data and traditional knowledge and experience  in advancing CMSP;
    • How best to represent existing local and regional entities on the regional planning bodies
    • How to design incentives that will spur implementation of CMSP; and
    • How to strike the right balance between the need for regional flexibility and the value of national consistency as regional planning bodies are established and as they carry out their work

    The workshop featured expert panels, question and answer sessions, and a planning simulation exercise that explored how different groups can work together to effectively tackle these and other important issues. Discussions also helped bring to light a wide range of valuable “lessons learned” from previous state and regional efforts to implement CMSP.  We heard about efforts already underway in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, New York, and California, as well as through regional partnerships. During the last several years, these and other efforts have played a prominent role leading the way towards more effective and integrated planning, and we intend  to learn from and build on these successes as we move forward.

    This was just the beginning of a discussion to ensure the future health of our ocean, coasts and Great Lakes. Regional workshops will also be held across the country in the months ahead to build on the progress we made last week. The National Ocean Council will be using the many suggestions proffered during the workshop, along with advice gathered from continued dialogue with partners and stakeholders to further inform the establishment of regional planning bodies in the months ahead. In particular, the National Ocean Council will obtain input from our Governance Coordinating Committee, composed of states, tribes, and local government representatives, on additional representation on the regional planning bodies.  We very much look forward to working with our state and tribal partners, and all interested Americans, toward healthy and productive oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. 

    You can watch the public session of the CMSP Workshop here.

    Andy Lipsky is an Ocean Policy Advisor for the National Ocean Council

  • Ocean Stewardship Built By You, For You

    Nancy in Providence Rhode Island Outdoor Event

    Chair Sutley looks out into the Narragansett Bay in Providence, Rhode Island

    Our nation's coastal areas provide a wealth of natural and economic resources, and generate tens of millions of jobs and trillions of dollars for our economy each year.  More than half of our country's population calls the coastal fringe that borders our nation home. However, competing uses and demands on the ocean threaten the health of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes. President Obama established the National Ocean Council to develop and implement a new, comprehensive ocean stewardship policy built with input from the American people.

    June marks National Oceans Month, and the National Ocean Council is holding a series of events all month to hear from the communities that depend on our oceans and coasts about the actions they would like to see put in place to implement this policy. 

    This week, Senator Reed invited me to Providence, Rhode Island, where I heard a wide range of perspectives on the importance of collaborative ocean planning efforts to build a successful policy that addresses the diversity of coastal regions and uses of the ocean. I heard about ways in which Federal actions and resources under the new National Ocean Policy can help Rhode Island continue building on local efforts and success.  It was clear that the diverse collection of participants, state and tribal authorities, users, stakeholders, and partners, including Senator Whitehouse, who participated in the State process, had pride in their recently completed State ocean plan.  Sen. Whitehouse has taken the lessons from what the State of Rhode Island has done and is working in the Senate to protect our oceans. 

    Nancy Sutley in Providence, Rhode Island Roundtable

    Chair Sutley speaks with local communities on the nation's first comprehensive ocean policy

    The feedback and discussions we will gather throughout the month will ensure that this Administration is implementing a robust, smart and scientific ocean policy that will address the most critical issues facing our nation’s waters.  As we work to better harmonize and sustain the uses and health of our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes, we want to hear from you to put into action a plan built with you for you.  

    Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Share Your Ideas with the National Ocean Council at a Listening Session Near You

    Experts from the National Ocean Council’s 27 Federal agencies and offices have been busy drafting strategic action plans to achieve nine national priority objectives that address some of the most pressing challenges facing our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.  Having already received your initial comments before we got started, we’d now like to hear from you again—this time with your thoughts on the strategic action plan outlines we’ve developed. That’s why we’re hosting a dozen Regional Listening Sessions at this still-early stage of the drafting process.  The strategic action plan outlines will be released in early June for a 30-day public comment period during which you will have the chance to chime in at one of the 12 Regional Listening Sessions or via the Web through a public comment portal.

    Here are the dates and locations for the listening sessions:

    Identifying the critical actions our national stewardship requires will take cooperation across all levels of government and stakeholder communities. Stay tuned for more information on how to comment on these outlines, and we hope to see you at one of the listening sessions!

    Andy Lipsky is an Ocean Policy Advisor at the National Ocean Council

  • Thank You Alaska!

    In July 2010, President Obama announced his commitment to implementing a new National Ocean Policy that indentifies the Arctic region as a priority area to address our stewardship responsibilities. Conditions in the Arctic are being impacted in the face of environmental and climate-induced changes.  Now more than ever, we need to work across government and alongside communities to identify the critical actions we must undertake to address the environmental stewardship needs in the region.   

    I had the great opportunity to participate in a webinar last week to discuss the National Ocean Policy and what it means for the Arctic region. Almost 300 listeners joined the discussion on the Obama Administration’s work underway to implement the National Ocean Policy, including initial thoughts of the interagency team that is now preparing a strategic action plan (SAP) to address changing conditions in the Arctic.

    The Arctic was specifically called out as a priority area for implementation of the policy because of the rapid changes that are occurring and the importance of the ocean environment to the local residents.  Access to the Arctic is increasing due to a reduction in sea ice and technological advances, while the demand for resources and the impacts of tourism are increasing.

    Dr. Cheryl Rosa of the US Arctic Research Commission and I also answered important questions from those participating in the webinar. We had a lot of great questions including whether the action plan would address subsistence concerns, sea-ice forecasting, port development in the Arctic, oil spills, and toxics and pollution.  All of these issues are under consideration by the interagency team.

    This webinar was one of many opportunities for the public to get involved and engaged in the implementation of our Nation’s first comprehensive National Ocean Policy. We will be sharing our initial outline for the SAP in early June and will look forward to more conversations about the important actions that must be taken to address environmental stewardship in our water regions across the Nation. It was rewarding to have this type of dialogue, and especially to hear from those who live in the Arctic.

    The presentation and podcast from the webinar are now available on the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks website, which hosted this event.

    Mary Boatman is a Policy Analyst at the Office of Science and Technology Policy

  • Take an E-Trip to Alaska to Discuss Issues Facing the Arctic

    Tomorrow from 2-3pm EDT you can join the US Arctic Research Commission (USARC) and Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks for an interactive “Webinar” to discuss issues concerning the Arctic.  The Webinar will focus on initial efforts to develop a strategic action plan—called for by President Obama in his July 2010 National Ocean Policy—to address changing conditions in the Arctic.

    National Ocean Council staff member Dr. Mary Boatman and Dr. Cheryl Rosa of USARC will offer the preliminary outline being considered by an interagency team that is in the process of putting pen to paper for the Arctic strategic action plan.  Additionally, members of the public can offer their input on how best to address climate-induced and other environmental changes affecting the Arctic.

    Instructions to register for the Webinar and to participate are available here. For those unable to participate, an archive of the slide presentation and a podcast of the Webinar discussion will be available here shortly after its conclusion.

    This will be one of many such opportunities for the public to get involved in the implementation of our Nation’s first comprehensive National Ocean Policy, and your participation is encouraged!

    Andy Lipsky is an Ocean Policy Advisor at the Council for Environmental Quality