National Ocean Council Blog

  • Highlighting our National Ocean Policy

    Since President Obama created America’s first National Ocean Policy in 2010, Federal agencies have made tremendous progress to meet its objectives – working every day with communities across the Nation and stakeholders on the ground to improve the health of our oceans, support our economy, bolster safety and security, and better understand how our activities impact the ocean.

    Today, we are releasing the first Report on the Implementation of the National Ocean Policy, which highlights the progress we’ve made since we released an action plan last year. From supporting the ocean economy to ensuring the security of our ports and waterways, and from improving coastal and ocean resilience to providing local communities with tools to plan for a better future, we’ve made tremendous strides in undertaking our role as responsible stewards of this Nation’s great oceans.

    Among the activities described are a host of steps to promote sustainable energy development and aquaculture practices—including ensuring that permitting processes for these activities are efficient and streamlined as possible; advancing research and monitoring activities to help protect people and communities from harmful algal blooms;  developing data-driven tools to map the extent of sea-ice and to assist emergency responders and environmental resources managers in dealing with incidents in the Arctic region that may harm the environment; and issuing step-by-step guidance to help coastal communities asses vulnerabilities and develop plans to cope with the impacts of climate change, extreme weather, and ocean acidification.

    Our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes provide us with rich cultural, recreational, and commercial opportunities.  Collectively, these treasured waters support tens of millions of jobs and contribute trillions of dollars a year to the national economy. The actions underway across Federal agencies and in collaboration with states, regions, and communities will ensure that our oceans resources remain safe and healthy, and that our ocean economy continues to thrive for the benefit of all Americans.

    To read the report, click here.

    Beth Kerttula is Director of the National Oceans Council. 

  • A Guide for Regional Marine Planning

    Today, the National Ocean Council released a Marine Planning Handbook to support the efforts of regions that choose to engage marine industries, stakeholders, the public, and government to advance their economic development and conservation priorities.  

    Each coastal  region of the country has its own interests and ways of doing business, but all regions want to support their marine economies and coastal communities. Voluntary marine planning is a science-based tool that provides regionally tailored information that all ocean interests can use to reduce conflicts, grow ocean industries, and support the healthy natural resources that our economy and communities depend on.

    Federal, state and local governments have a variety of roles and responsibilities when it comes to the ocean, and make decisions every day that impact ocean resources, industries and coastal communities.  Regions that choose to do marine planning are guaranteeing that the public and marine stakeholders will shape these decisions early on, promoting better outcomes for everyone.   Regions can define what they want to address and how they do so, in ways that reflect their unique interests and priorities.  At the same time, some components of planning – like making sure the public and stakeholders have a chance to engage – are common to all regions.  The Handbook provides guidance on how regions can address their priorities through a bottom-up, transparent, science-based process. 

    The Handbook reflects the extensive public and stakeholder input received in the development of the National Ocean Policy and its Implementation PlanWe will update it as needed to reflect the lessons learned in regions and ensure it continues to be a useful guide for successful, collaborative planning.

    Read the Marine Planning Handbook here.

     Deerin Babb-Brott is the National Ocean Council Director.

  • A Snapshot of Our Nation’s Scientific Ocean Vessels

    Today, the Administration released the Federal Oceanographic Fleet Status Report, a comprehensive Federal review of the Nation’s fleet of oceanographic survey and research vessels. These 47 ships are part of our Nation’s critical infrastructure, collecting vital information to help protect lives and property from marine hazards; measure and project global climate change and ocean acidification; enhance safety and security; and more. Here are just a few of the important activities our fleet conducts:

    • Oceanographic research and placement of sensors that enable hurricane and tsunami warnings;
    • Navigational mapping to facilitate safe and efficient transportation and trade among ports;
    • Collection of tactical and strategic oceanographic information in support of national defense and homeland security;
    • Assessments of living and non-living resources that can inform decision-making by managers and businesses; and
    • Marine-based biomedical research to accelerate the discovery of new pharmaceuticals and therapies. 

    This report fulfills an action identified in the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, and supports the objective of advancing fundamental science and information.

    The National Ocean Policy also called on agencies to work together cooperatively and share information. The new Fleet Status report indicates that interagency coordination is well-established among the Nation’s survey and oceanographic vessels, as manifested by data transmission practices and the sharing of equipment, scheduling, and ship design and construction plans.

    The new report notes a number of challenges facing the oceanographic fleet. The costs of operating ships have increased dramatically–fuel costs have risen 400 percent since 2003, personnel costs and safety, security, and environmental requirements have grown, and maintenance takes longer and is more expensive for an aging fleet–but Federal agency budgets have not kept pace. Conventional budgeting practices also make it difficult to plan for repairs and fleet updates in advance.

    The report concludes that the current US oceanographic fleet will maintain its capacity through 2020, and will become more efficient with the introduction of highly advanced ships and the retirement of older, less-capable vessels. Ongoing work to decrease fuel consumption and engine emissions will also reduce operating costs and help ensure that the Nation’s fleet continues to be versatile, efficient, and effective well into the future.

    Deerin Babb-Brott is the National Ocean Council Director.

  • What People Are Saying About the Oceans Plan

    Today, the Obama Administration released its plan for translating the National Ocean Policy into on-the-ground actions to benefit the American people.  Here’s what people are saying about the plan:

    “The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan emphasizes the role that ports and maritime commerce play in the nation’s economy. We are glad that many of the key recommendations will support the flow of commerce in and through our nation’s ports by improving the quality and reliability of navigation and ocean observation data, increasing the efficiency of permitting processes and agency coordination and identifying the possible impact of increased weather events and sea level rise on port facilities.”
    American Association of Port Authorities

    "The vitality of our working waterfronts is a national economic priority. The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan provides a predictable and inclusive decision-making framework to ensure that our economic interests are fostered in the face of growing and competing demands on our oceans."
    Dr. Geraldine Knatz, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles

    "I welcome and appreciate the recognition of existing regional and local management and the commitment to supporting and enhancing partnerships to improve the management of our marine resources."
    John Pappalardo, Chief Executive Officer, Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association

    "The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan is good news for generations of shellfish growers and those who enjoy shellfish.  The industry is completely dependent upon a healthy ocean, innovation and responsible planning.  The actions identified in this plan will allow shellfish production to continue to be a vital component of our country's rural coastal communities.  I applaud the President's leadership in preserving this industry for future generations."
    Margaret Pilaro Barrette, Executive Director, Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association

    “We are encouraged to see that the final Implementation Plan addresses many of the concerns we raised when the draft was offered for comment.  The final Plan is appropriately focused on key areas such as permitting efficiencies, habitat restoration and economic development opportunities, while respecting local and regional authority and sovereignty. Hopefully the plan will draw attention to key research and development needs so that lawmakers will be moved to direct appropriate funding resources to these critical needs.”
    Bob Rheault, Executive Director, East Coast Shellfish Growers Association

    “Demand for our farmed shellfish has exceeded our ability to supply it for years.  We are pleased that the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan recognizes the opportunity to expand domestic shellfish aquaculture and the valuable jobs it can create.  The Plan provides critical direction on permit coordination and efficiency and implementing the National Shellfish Initiative as well as focusing on science, ocean acidification and monitoring which are all critically important to shellfish growers.”
    Bill Dewey, Director of Public Policy and Communications for Taylor Shellfish Farms.

    "The National Corn Growers Association appreciates the administration’s outreach to the agriculture community during the development of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan. We welcome the Plan’s emphasis on voluntary conservation programs and nutrient trading pilot opportunities, as well as expanded research to better understand the complex causes of hypoxia. We can work together to grow the economies of coastal and farming communities while preserving water quality for years to come."
    National Corn Growers Association

    “Well-informed decision making is essential to avoiding and mitigating conflict among various ocean user groups. This is especially important for a region like the Mid-Atlantic where we expect to see a modern emergence of renewable energy development. I appreciate the National Ocean Policy’s emphasis on integrated decision-making and improved coordination at the regional level, in support of regional priorities. New decision-making tools, such as regional data portals, will facilitate improved collaboration and efficiency in ocean planning. For example, this week we will host a workshop in which managers, scientists, fishermen, and other stakeholders will come together to collaboratively evaluate and develop fishery management strategies to protect deep sea corals, utilizing the MARCO regional data portal to display information. This kind of enhanced coordination and communication between agencies and ocean sectors is critical to ensuring positive outcomes for present and future generations.”
    Rick Robins, Chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council

    “We believe implementing the National Ocean Policy is essential for the offshore wind industry to thrive in this country. Offshore wind is a new industry with the potential to create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment in the U.S.”
    Jim Lanard, President, Offshore Wind Development Coalition

    “Marinas are more than just a place for ocean users to dock their boat at the end of the day – they are a true economic hub for tourism and recreation. That’s why having a plan which maps out ocean uses for the Northeast region – identifying potential conflicts before they happen – will be of great value to my industry. The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan will enable regions like New England to move ahead with this smart ocean planning by engaging people like me, who live and work on the water every day, while not forcing planning on other regions that do not currently want to engage in the process.”
    Michael Keyworth, board member and past president, Rhode Island Marine Trades Association; Vice President and General Manager, Brewer Cove Haven Marina in Barrington, Rhode Island.

    “The National Ocean Policy is about making smart choices for a healthier ocean – which, in turn, saves money, time and jobs. The implementation plan shows that the policy is a realistic plan that recognizes the tough fiscal climate we’re in.  That’s why it emphasizes that these priorities can help direct the limited resources to where they’re most needed.”
    Janis Searles Jones, Executive Vice President for Policy and Programs, Ocean Conservancy

    “I’m proud to have supported the Oceans Act in 2000 that led to sweeping bipartisan recommendations for a new and comprehensive national ocean policy. The nation’s prosperity and the well-being of all Americans depends directly on the continued health and stewardship of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes. The Administration’s thoughtfully revised Implementation Plan marks a new and practical step in over a decade of federal ocean policy efforts and I look forward to working together with the Administration to move the Implementation Plan forward.”
    Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV, Chairman, Commerce Science & Transportation Committee, United States Senate

    “We're excited to see a final plan from the National Ocean Council that has real actions to protect our coasts and oceans. By providing support for ocean planning, the plan will help ensure that new industries like offshore wind power do not unnecessarily impact the marine ecosystem and human uses like recreation and fishing."
    Pete Stauffer, surfer and Ocean Program Manager with Surfrider Foundation, Portland, Oregon

    “We who work on the water daily see the direct effects of changes caused by ocean acidification or increases in ocean temperatures. As a lobsterman I've come to think of the Gulf of Maine as being unique and precious, and deserving of all our efforts at stewardship and protection that the National Ocean Policy and Ocean Planning will enable.”
    Richard Nelson, Lobsterman from Friendship, Maine

    “The whole concept of the national ocean policy is to maximize the benefit and minimize the damage. What’s not to love?”
    Dr. Leslie Kaufmann, Biologist with Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts

    “Full implementation of the National Ocean Policy is what we need to protect, maintain and restore New England’s ocean and coasts. Conservationists, fishermen, scientists, boaters, surfers, clean energy advocates and community leaders are all working together because we understand the value of stewardship and getting out ahead of ocean use conflicts by doing smart planning for our oceans.”
    Priscilla Brooks, VP and Director of Ocean Conservation, Conservation Law Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts

    “With more than 10 million participations, the marine recreational fishing community represents an incredibly large diverse ocean user group. The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan is the first real comprehensive approach to our country’s ocean interests that recognizes the importance of recreational interests, and it goes a long way toward providing an outline for continued responsible use.”
    Tom Raftican, President, The Sportfishing Conservancy

    “Through this plan, there is a commitment to education, regulatory streamlining, and better monitoring and data. It reflects a serious and thoughtful attempt not only to tackle big problems, but also to take advantage of opportunities to work collaboratively with industry to build a domestic aquaculture industry.”
    Danny Murphy, President, American Soybean Association

    “As a tribal leader I was deeply moved by the understanding and acceptance from the federal, state and the public of who we are and what we bring to the table. Together we work in a manner that truly benefits all we serve. We are modeling the way for other regional bodies to do the same."
    Chief Richard Getchell, Chief of the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians (Maine) and tribal co-lead for the New England Regional Planning Body

    “I was very pleased to see the plan for translating the National Ocean Policy into actions that will help us address the very real issues that we face right now and that will only intensify in the future. The Gulf is vital to the energy security, economic well-being and environmental health of our nation. We have options now that we will not have even a few years from now, so it is timely to get this plan on the table.”
    Dr. Larry D. McKinney, Executive Director, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies

    “The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative Leadership Council applauds the National Ocean Council’s release of its National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan. Executing this plan will improve management of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes and help ensure our vital ocean resources are able to support the communities, businesses and ecosystems that rely on them now and into the future. By incorporating the most advanced scientific knowledge in the field and focusing on increasing efficiency and effectiveness of governmental decision making, the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan offers a stronger, simpler path to healthy, well-managed oceans. We appreciate the thoughtful work the National Ocean Council has done to include feedback from all sectors and we look forward to continuing to work together to improve our economy, our environment and our national security.”
    The Honorable William Ruckelshaus and The Honorable Norman Mineta, Co-Chairs, Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, on behalf of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative Leadership Council

    “The strength of America’s economy is tied to the health of our oceans, particularly in coastal states like Rhode Island. With the release of this plan we now have a blueprint to streamline efforts across the federal government to keep our oceans, and our economy, thriving. The plan will support regions and states as they take steps to prepare for economic development, protect their beaches and wildlife, and ensure their coasts are still thriving for future generations. I look forward to working with the Administration to put this plan into effect.”
    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus, United States Senate

    “On California’s Central Coast, we understand the role that the ocean plays in supporting our local community. From tourists visiting the Monterey Bay to the fishing industry that relies upon strong marine fish populations, our local economy is dependent upon the jobs created by a healthy, well managed ocean environment. And when the economies of our coastal communities thrive, the entire country reaps the benefits. But for too long, the management of our oceans has been handled by a confusing and often competing mix of federal agencies. This plan finally gets all of the relevant federal agencies on the same page, allowing them to coordinate their missions and provide for more efficient stewardship of our oceans. It also opens the lines of communications between the federal government and the states and local communities that are directly impacted. By working together and taking a holistic, science based approach to the management of our marine ecosystems, we not only build a stronger economy now but ensure the ocean’s long-term sustainability to benefit future generations.”
    Congressman Sam Farr, chair of the House Oceans Caucus, United States House of Representatives

    "We are excited about the opportunities within the National Ocean Policy that will secure sustainable use of the ocean while protecting the marine ecosystem."
    Leesa Cobb, Director, Port Orford (Oregon) Ocean Resource Team

    “I applaud the National Ocean Council’s work to develop a common-sense approach to management of one of America’s most beloved and valuable natural resources. The changes included in the final plan reflect careful consideration of the concerns of a broad group of stakeholders. The result is a policy that enhances federal government efficiency and allows states and regions a stronger say in crafting solutions to their specific ocean challenges to ensure a vibrant future for America’s oceans and coasts.”
    Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress

    “The Implementation Plan recognizes that ensuring healthy oceans for future generations will require an all-out local, regional and national effort. We must develop science-based solutions to our toughest ocean and coastal challenges --from marine pollution and ocean acidification to habitat loss and species decline. We’ve learned in California that when we all come together to tackle a common problem, representing government, business, science, and conservation interests, we can really make a difference. We stand ready to work with the Administration to make this a reality."
    Julie Packard, Executive Director, Monterey Bay Aquarium

    “Our oceans are a precious resource and a federal strategy to manage the use and protection of it is an important tool for states like Massachusetts that are endeavoring to develop offshore wind. By balancing environmental, commercial fishing and energy interests with science-based data, this plan will ensure we are all working together to make a cleaner energy future.”
    Alicia Barton, CEO of Massachusetts Clean Energy Center

    "The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, much like Oregon's recently completed Territorial Sea Plan, represents a thoughtful and inclusive planning process to create a framework that balances current and future ocean uses to the benefit of all."
    Jason Busch, Executive Director, Oregon Wave Energy Trust 

  • Admiral James D. Watkins, USN (ret.) (1927 – 2012) – Champion of Ocean Policy

    We note with much regret the passing of Admiral James D. Watkins on Thursday.  ADM Watkins served our Nation with distinction for more than half a century. His long and productive Navy career culminated with his term as Chief of Naval Operations, the Navy’s highest uniformed position. A man of many talents, ADM Watkins went on to serve as Secretary of Energy during the George H.W. Bush administration after having led the Presidential Commission on HIV/AIDS.

    We are particularly grateful for ADM Watkins’ service to the Nation in the oceans arena.  ADM Watkins served as President of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI) during the 1990s.  From there he founded the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education (CORE) to focus on the national need for ocean education, ocean science, and ocean policy.  In 2007, CORE and JOI merged to form the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL), which now continues to pursue ADM Watkins’ vision. After his retirement from CORE in 2001, ADM Watkins continued to apply his considerable talents in the oceans arena by chairing the George W. Bush administration’s U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, the final report of which provided much of the foundation for our current National Ocean Policy. 

    Upon completion of the Commission’s work in 2004, ADM Watkins went on to form the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (JOCI) in partnership with the leadership of the Pew Oceans Commission.  This bipartisan effort was designed in part to maintain momentum towards a formal ocean policy, a goal that was recently brought to fruition by President Obama’s 2010 Executive Order 13547, Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes.

    ADM Watkins’ work in the oceans arena carries on through the ongoing efforts of many groups and individuals throughout the Nation. For that legacy, we are most grateful.

    John P. Holdren and Nancy Sutley are co-chairs of the National Ocean Council.

  • Valuable Support for Maritime Industries

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Timothy W. Janaitis, Director of Business Development for global underwater services company Phoenix International Holdings, Inc., which provides 225 American jobs.

    As a global underwater services company, Phoenix International depends on our oceans. One of our internationally recognized missions took place last spring when we located and recovered both black boxes from Air France Flight 447, an aircraft that had crashed in 13,000 feet of water in the Atlantic two years earlier. We are currently preparing to launch a mission to search for, and ideally recover, the airplane of pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart lost in the South Pacific 75 years ago.

    On a broader scale, our company provides underwater operations, engineering and construction support to those who have economic, environmental and cultural interests in the oceans. We see new business opportunities in areas such as the emerging offshore renewable energy industry. Development of this and other offshore industries represents significant growth potential for us.

    So it is with great frustration that we see companies departing the renewable market due, in part, to a lack of clear ground rules in federal waters that slows the level and pace of project approvals. Clearly, we need a consistent framework in which investors and developers can propose and bring their technologies offshore as quickly and safely as possible within the established guidelines. This requires a sensible regulatory environment, and cooperation among all interested parties, including agencies and stakeholders.

    The National Ocean Policy provides the needed framework to stimulate job creation and economic growth, not only at Phoenix International, but at other ocean dependent businesses and organizations as well. All Americans have an interest in healthy oceans, and thriving ocean industries. Citizens who have diverse -- and sometimes conflicting -- interests and needs must have a process that allows for constructive dialogue, so they can find solutions. Only in this way can consistent ground rules and processes be established that allow energy and other offshore developers to have their proposed initiatives expeditiously and properly evaluated. The National Ocean Policy and the work of the Regional Planning Bodies allow for such representation and decision-making, and should be embraced as valuable support for maritime industries. 

    Timothy W. Janaitis is Director of Business Development for Phoenix International Holdings, Inc.