National Ocean Council Blog

  • Opening Our Oceans With Data.Gov

    Today, we are pleased to announce the release of, the newest community on  This effort is the result of two important initiatives of the Obama Administration: the development and implementation of the National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes and the creation of to make Federal data more accessible to the American people.

    Since President Obama signed the Executive Order establishing a National Ocean Policy, the Administration has been working steadily to implement this policy.  One cornerstone of the policy is the Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, a science-based, regional planning process conducted jointly with states and tribes that guarantees the public and stakeholders a voice in decisions affecting the ocean.   Making the science that is available to the Federal Government accessible to all ocean users is a key to the success of this initiative.   That’s why the National Ocean Council has teamed with the initiative to create an open and accessible website that houses and references a wealth of information and tools available to support ocean planning efforts.  

  • In Support of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to three members of the National Ocean Council's Governance Coordinating Committee: Kristin Jacobs, Broward County Commissioner; Dee Freeman, Secretary, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources; and Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker.

    As a Florida resident and Commissioner in Broward County, I am acutely aware of the economic benefits of our diverse coastal and marine resources. Tourism, recreational and commercial fishing, diving, port-related activities, are all of vital importance to the economics of our region. The numbers are staggering.  In southeast Florida, reef-related activities alone generate $3.3 billion in annual recreational expenditure, $4.4 billion in local production, and $2 billion in resident income while supporting 70,000 jobs. Statewide, oceans and coasts generate nearly $562 billion in cash flow and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Port and cruise activity generate additional benefits with five major cruise ports in Florida. Located in Broward County, Port Everglades generates approximately $18 billion worth of business activity and approximately 200,000 jobs statewide. As our reliance on marine and coastal resources continues to grow, it is essential that we develop a comprehensive plan that allows for continued uses, provides for emergent needs, and protects the integrity of our rich coastal and marine resources. We simply cannot afford any other approach. 

    This is why I celebrate President Obama’s National Ocean Policy, his establishment of coastal marine spatial planning as a priority, and his emphasis on a process that is inclusive and holistic. This effort has the potential to substantially advance regional and state initiatives that have already identified coastal and marine spatial planning as a priority, but which stand to benefit from federal leadership and example.  In the state of Florida, for example, the value of this approach has been recognized by the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council, charged with coordinating the state’s research for more effective coastal management. The Council, representing broad stakeholder interests, recommended ocean management using marine spatial planning as a framework for decision making recognizing that this approach serves to protect and expand the state’s ocean and coastal economy.  We should seek these same benefits at the federal level and work to ensure compatibility of management activities across broader spatial scales, while enhancing the benefits of management activities implemented regionally. The environmental and economic rewards for our nation will be realized for generations to come.

    Kristin Jacobs is Broward County Commissioner and a member of the National Ocean Council’s Governance Coordinating Committee

    Stewardship of North Carolina's natural resources, protecting its environment, and growing its economy have been corner stones of progressive state policy for generations in the Tar Heel state. In 1974 the Coastal Area Management Act was enacted, beginning one of our most important journeys in planning and acting on NC's future - an effort that continues to this day. Similarly, President Obama's executive order creating the National Ocean Council is a welcome effort to bring a national focus on ocean policy. I am extremely pleased the president's effort involves state, local and tribal involvement from the start.

    Understanding and nurturing our unique coastal ecosystems, fostering tourism, developing our ports, and addressing disaster resiliency from hurricanes are at the heart of such planning. NC is now using its coastal management policies and tools, under the leadership of Gov. Beverly Perdue, to embrace new initiatives surrounding wind, current, wave, tidal and other renewal energy policies that offer great promise for our economic and environmental future.

    In North Carolina we assist local government in our coastal counties with land use planning to preserve NC's unique coastline and guard our nation's security by protecting the military bases in our state from encroachment due to development.  Clearly, coastal marine spacial planning for our ocean waters will be needed to continue protecting our ecosystems, preserving areas for wind energy projects, protecting training areas for the military, managing our fisheries, and meeting our obligation to protect endangered species. 

    As a North Carolinian, I am pleased to be a part of the president's NOC initiative representing Gov. Beverly Perdue and her mission to protect the environment while growing our economy and creating jobs. I invite the Congress to support these efforts that pave the way forward for our nation to protect, nurture and grow our coastal resources.

    Dee Freeman is Secretary of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources and a member of the National Ocean Council's Governance Coordinating Committee

    The National Ocean Policy appropriately implements the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy through mechanisms that will strengthen – not weaken – the role of states, tribes, coastal communities, and ocean resource users in developing ocean management policies. Because existing uses from fishing to shipping are so important to our state – and because new uses such as wind, wave and tidal energy production must also be accommodated with these existing uses – it is more important than ever that coastal states and ocean resource stakeholders have a place at the table to help develop the policies and plans that will guide federal agencies in the management of the nation's ocean resources. The National Ocean Policy sets out a logical pathway for such work, and appropriately contemplates comprehensive marine spatial planning as a key element in this pathway using a bottom-up approach that allows states to lead their destiny.

    Kevin Ranker is a Washington State Senator and a member of the National Ocean Council's Governance Coordinating Committee

  • The Truth about the National Ocean Policy

    Last year, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a National Ocean Policy that improves stewardship of ocean resources and prioritizes work to address the most pressing challenges facing the oceans. As demands on our oceans continue to grow, the National Ocean Policy brings common-sense collaboration to the management of our marine resources and economies. It will help protect our ocean resources to allow future economic growth and ensure Americans continue to benefit from vital uses of the ocean for commerce, recreation, national security and other activities essential to our economy and quality of life.   

    The current lack of coordination both within the Federal Government and among Federal, state, and local bodies is inefficient, ineffective, and results in conflict and delays that are bad for business, and bad for our country. The National Ocean Policy fixes this with a regionally based planning process that brings everyone to the table and ensures stakeholders and the public have a voice in decisions that impact our oceans. It is a smart, practical policy that has been called for from groups as varied as fishing, renewable energy, conservation and national and homeland security interests.

    Now, some in Congress are seeking to maintain the inefficient and conflict-ridden status quo by spreading inaccurate and misleading information about the National Ocean Policy. Here is the truth about the National Ocean Policy and what it will do for Americans.

    MYTH: The National Ocean Policy Needs Congressional Authorization.
    : The National Ocean Policy does not alter any government authorities and does not require new legislation to be implemented. It uses existing authority to help Federal agencies foster communication and improve coordination on the nearly 100 different laws, policies and regulations affecting the oceans.

    MYTH: The Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) Initiative Imposes 'Ocean Zoning.'
    : The National Ocean Policy in no way restricts any ocean, coastal, or Great Lakes activity, nor does it impose ocean zoning through CMSP or any other component. CMSP is a tool that provides transparent information about ocean use, guarantees the public and stakeholders a voice in decisions affecting the oceans, and creates an inclusive, bottom-up planning approach that gives states and regions the ability to make informed decisions about how best to use the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes. Only the Federal agencies are required to follow the regionally developed CMSPs. Tribal, state and local governments will benefit by having a regional CMSP blueprint to follow, and their participation in CMSP is voluntary.

    MYTH: The National Ocean Policy Threatens American Jobs.
    : America's ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes regions support tens of millions of jobs and contribute trillions of dollars a year to our national economy. Nothing threatens these jobs and economies more than delays that result from poor coordination, ineffective planning, and increasing conflicts among growing numbers of ocean users. The National Ocean Policy will help protect these jobs by improving the health and sustainability of the ocean and through a clearer, more stable and predictable decision-making path. It will ensure sustainable economic growth through common-sense, collaborative planning that creates predictability and fosters an improved climate for investment.

    MYTH: The National Ocean Policy Creates More Bureaucracy.
    : The truth is just the opposite. Currently, all parties are left to independently navigate and interpret approximately 100 laws, regulations, and policies affecting the ocean, a system that is inefficient at best. The National Ocean Policy improves coordination at all levels of government, provides for more informed decision-making, and establishes proactive and cooperative planning among Federal, state, tribal, and local authorities for the first time. The result will be less waste and conflict, more efficiency, and savings for American taxpayers.

    MYTH: The National Ocean Policy Increases Likelihood for Litigation.
    : The National Ocean Policy will reduce the likelihood of litigation and resulting delays that threaten jobs and hamper economic growth. Our current regulatory and permitting structures are sector by sector and typically poorly coordinated. The result has been uncertainty for industry, unseen "show stoppers" in the permitting process that discourage up-front investments, user conflict and confusion, and costly litigation. The proactive and collaborative approach of coastal and marine spatial planning will reduce conflict, provide transparency and predictability for economic investments, and result in cost savings and faster project implementation for businesses.

    MYTH: The National Ocean Policy Will Impose New Costs on Taxpayers.
    : The National Ocean Policy will in fact save taxpayers money by reducing Federal waste, inefficiency and delay. Currently, Federal departments and agencies independently implement a maze of about 100 laws, policies, and regulations related to the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. This has resulted in conflicting priorities, duplication, and ad hoc decision-making that frequently ends in litigation. The National Ocean Policy tackles this hidden and costly maze, and brings everyone to the table to better coordinate and integrate their work. It also helps us prioritize efforts and resources to address the most critical issues facing our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes. Hindering an agency's ability to implement the National Ocean Policy will maintain the status quo of ad hoc decision-making, increased conflict, and higher costs. 

    MYTH: The Regional Planning Bodies will have no representation by the people, communities, and businesses that will actually be impacted by the regulations.
    : Contrary to this assertion, a cornerstone of collaborative, regionally based CMSP is stakeholder and public participation, and science and information based decision-making. Regional planning bodies include state and tribal representatives that provide essential input from American communities. The National Ocean Policy also requires the regional planning bodies to regularly engage the public and stakeholders at every stage of their planning and decision making processes. Claims that the policy cuts out the public are misinformed as governance to date has been and will continue to be inclusive.

    MYTH: The National Ocean Policy Will Have Far-Reaching Inland Impacts.
    : The National Ocean Policy's CMSP does not mandate inclusion of inland activities, nor does it change any laws or regulatory authorities. Because water flows downstream, pollution that occurs hundreds of miles away can result in frequent beach closures, fish kills, and areas of pollution. Regional planning bodies, which include state and tribal representatives, may choose to evaluate inland impacts on ocean resources. The National Ocean Policy does not prohibit this, but any attempt to link the policy with inland regulations is purely speculative and misleading. 

    MYTH: The National Ocean Policy Will Create Regulatory Uncertainty.
    : The National Ocean Policy does not impose any new regulations or alter any existing Federal authorities. In fact, by prioritizing efforts and resources to address critical issues, bringing all levels of government together, and improving coordination among Federal agencies, it provides more predictability and fosters a more stable climate for investment. As with any new initiative, there is the potential for uncertainty until it becomes familiar. The National Ocean Policy proactively addresses this potential through open, regular and transparent engagement with stakeholders and the public to dispel misinformation and answer any questions.

    Taryn Tuss is Deputy Communications Director at the Council on Environmental Quality

  • Protecting Marine Life, Protecting Ourselves

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Hayden Panettiere, who for the past 7 years has been the spokesperson for The Whaleman Foundation and their Save the Whales Again! Campaign.

    Hayden 2

    Hayden Panettiere and Administration officials pose after their meeting to discuss conservation of our world’s great whales. (Left to right): Celeste Connors, Director for Environment and Climate Change, National Security Council/National Economic Council; Actress Hayden Panettiere; Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; and Jay Jensen, Associate Director for Land & Water Ecosystems at the Council on Environmental Quality. (Photo Credit: Jeff Pantukhoff, President & Founder, The Whaleman Foundation)

    About 3 years ago, I had the great privilege of meeting President Obama for the first time while he was on the campaign trail. He told me that some of his fondest childhood memories growing up in Hawaii were when he was swimming in the ocean and saw its wondrous creatures up-close and personal, including dolphins and whales. We spoke of the need to protect them and in particular to stop whaling. Today, the Obama Administration took a step toward doing just that.

    In a meeting with the President's environmental policy advisor, Nancy Sutley, and several officials from the Administration, I thanked and applauded President Obama for taking action today against Iceland's illegal slaughter of fin and minke whales, which is in direct violation of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) commercial whaling moratorium.


    CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, Hayden Panettiere and Administration officials meet to discuss President Obama's message to Congress regarding Pelly Certification and Icelandic Whaling.

    Tens of millions of U.S. citizens, including myself, have written or emailed the President and his Administration supporting these actions under the Pelly Amendment. I am grateful that the President and our government have listened and will be raising this issue with Iceland at the highest levels. They will continue to monitor the companies involved and examine other options available to us.

    These include the diplomatic measures just announced here today, such as directing the State Department to examine Arctic cooperation projects, and where appropriate, link U.S. cooperation to the Icelandic government changing its whaling policy and abiding by the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. It also calls on Iceland to cease its commercial whaling activities.

    It has been the policy of the United States to support the conservation of the world's whale populations through science based policies and leadership within the International Whaling Commission. Just recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which leads the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission, signed a "sister sanctuary" agreement with France to support the protection of endangered humpback whales, and they are currently working with Bermuda to declare a sister humpback whale sanctuary there as well.

    Also, at the 2010 meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Agadir, The US delegation, by the request of our organization, introduced a five-year study by Dr. Roger Payne and Dr. John Wise that showed how toxins and pollutants are being dispersed throughout the world's oceans and up the food chain. It outlined how these pollutants are not only a serious health threat to marine life, including apex predators like dolphins and whales, but also pose serious health threats to humans.

    By protecting marine life and our oceans, ultimately we are protecting ourselves. President Obama recognizes this and has repeatedly supported innovative and conservation-minded efforts, not only at the International Whaling Commission, but with the unprecedented forward thinking demonstrated in his National Ocean Policy.

    Hayden Panettiere is an Actor and the International Spokesperson for The Whaleman Foundation & the Save the Whales Again! Campaign

  • Nominate Yourself or Someone You Know for the National Ocean Council's Advisory Committee

    Throughout the first year of the National Ocean Council's work, one of our driving goals has been to provide opportunities for the public, stakeholders, non-federal members of the ocean community and beyond to provide your thoughts on implementing the National Ocean Policy.

    We opened a public scoping phase in January of this year to get initial thoughts on strategic action plans for the nine priority objectives highlighted in the policy. Throughout June, we held public regional listening sessions to hear directly from you on outlines for these plans and other aspects of the policy implementation. June also saw the opening of a web-based public comment period on the outlines. In late June, we kicked off activities to initiate coastal and marine spatial planning with a national workshop that included a day of public participation. Through all of these efforts we have received very valuable input from you.

    We are now very pleased to let you know of a different sort of opportunity to become involved in the National Ocean Council's work. The Council's formal advisory committee, the Ocean Research Advisory Panel (ORAP), is seeking nominations for members.

    As an official Federal Advisory Committee, ORAP provides advice to the Council on policies, procedures, and other responsibilities relevant to implementation of the National Ocean Policy. Current ORAP members include representatives of the National Academies, ocean industries, State governments, academia, and others, including eminent individuals in the fields of marine science, marine policy, and related areas such as ocean resource management. Six seats will become vacant in the summer of 2012, and the goal is to balance ORAP membership to the extent possible to capture a range of geographic and sector representation and experience.

    Anyone (including any organization) may nominate qualified individuals (including oneself) for membership on the panel. The deadline is September 15, 2011. The Federal Register notice provides all the details you need to officially submit a nomination.

    We hope you will consider this opportunity to contribute to the expert advice the Council seeks as we move into our second year of improving our Nation's economy, environment, and future through the National Ocean Policy.

    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

  • Sound Ocean Policy Builds the Marine Economy

    Editor's Note: This post introduces readers to Michael Keyworth, Chairman of Legislative Affairs for the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association.

    Bluefun Tuna

    (Photo Credit: NOAA)

    We are fortunate that the Obama Administration and the business community in Rhode Island understand the value of our rivers, Bay, and Coast. We know from experience that for a business to be successful and sustainable, it must be clean and green. That is why environmental regulation and policies, from the local to state to federal levels, need to make sense for these businesses. While we recognize the importance of good, strong environmental laws, they have to be practical, feasible, clear, and fair. They must also produce effective and measurable results.

    All of us in Rhode Island are connected to the water in some way. Our many marine industries—from boatbuilding, service, and repair, to marinas and public boating facilities—play a vital role in the regional economy, and in supporting the many different ways people use and enjoy the ocean and coastal environment.

    Founded in 1964, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) represents all aspects of the marine industry. Our member companies and organizations are dedicated to the growth in recreational boating and the creation of jobs for our industry in an environmentally friendly, safe and responsible way.

    It is with these principles in mind that RIMTA rolled up our sleeves and participated in the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP), which recently became the first federally-approved plan of its kind in the nation. The Plan represents a strong effort to do coastal marine spatial planning through an open and public process based on good science and direct observations drawn from the participants.

    Respecting the balance between the stakeholders' interests is essential to success. Every perspective is valuable and deserves to be heard. We were impressed to see nearly every one of the stakeholders take a constructive attitude aimed at solutions and results. We've learned that when industry groups work closely with the environmental organizations, universities, and other non-governmental organizations, it makes a powerful alliance.

    Federal ocean policy can only work if it is sensible and helps build our economy. Rhode Island is unique, but aspects of our experience can help inform the President and the federal agencies as the national ocean policy takes shape. When it comes to the ocean and our public waters, it is critical that we get it right the first time, and we are grateful to the Obama Administration for recognizing its importance.

    Michael Keyworth is Chairman of Legislative Affairs for the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association