The Surfrider Foundation applauds the National Ocean Council’s approval of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan (Plan). The plan represents years of hard work and collaboration by state, federal, and tribal representatives, with input from thousands of public ocean and coastal stakeholders, such as the Surfrider Foundation.

The grassroots origin and region-led process that created the plan will guide management of our valuable coastlines and ocean resources for decades to come. The White House announced the approval on December 7, 2016.

“Ocean planning is an opportunity for the public to get in on the ground level with efforts to keep our beaches healthy, which will allow us to enjoy them into the future,” said Matt Gove, Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager, Surfrider Foundation.

Tourism and recreation is the number one economic driver in our coastal communities, worth an estimated $30 billion in GDP per year in the Mid-Atlantic states, alone. The Plan can facilitate the continued growth and protection of this valuable industry, which is reliant upon a clean and vibrant ocean ecosystem.

“National security, aquaculture, recreation, energy: all of these competing interests drive us to ocean planning,” said Jose F.H. Atangan, Ocean Ranger Planning Section Head for the U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “We need to make sure that there is compatibility in uses at the same time that we are preserving and protecting our ocean environment.”

The general goal of the Plan is to increase collaboration and communication between government agencies that make decisions about the ocean, and to have management be informed by the interests of Tribal Nations, the public and all ocean users. This process has historically been piecemeal rather than systemwide; ocean planning seeks to have all decision makers at the table looking 360-degrees at issues through a lens of ecosystem-based management, to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Surfrider has led studies to collect economic and spatial data on recreational uses, with data sets then incorporated into online decision and support tools called data portals (Mid-Atlantic). The utility of the data portal provides us with a rare opportunity to layer data, and look into the future to envision what kind of coast we want, instead of chasing the latest proposed project to mitigate it’s detrimental impacts to the ecosystem and our recreational hotspots.

With the approval of the final Plan, tribal nations, federal agencies and states will begin the process of implementation, ushering in a new wave of ocean management. The next phase of putting the plans into action is important so ocean users can fully utilize the process to reap on the water benefits that will enable better decision-making, better understanding of uses, and more healthy ocean and coastal resources.

“It is critical for these plans to be implemented,” said Chris P. Scraba, Deputy Chief of Waterways Management for the United States Coast Guard, “because the sustainable ocean uses provide economic security to the states and local partners.”

Surfrider will continue to be a key stakeholder in the ocean planning processes, making sure that recreational users are involved in actions covering diverse topics such as ocean acidification, decreasing ocean debris, identifying indicators, and planning for sustainable sand management.

Still confused about what ocean planning is? Watch this short film produced by the Surfrider Foundation and Chris Hannant of Swell Productions.