The Mid-Atlantic’s Valuable Ocean and Coast

The ocean and coastal waters of the Mid-Atlantic, stretching from New York to Virginia, provide a wealth of economic and environmental services to local communities, states, and the nation. Over 34 million people call the Mid-Atlantic coastal region their home. The Mid-Atlantic ocean and coast serve as an economic engine for the nation, generating $2 trillion or 14 percent of U.S. gross domestic product annually. Commercial and recreational fishing, transportation, renewable energy production, telecommunications, science and research, tourism, and recreational interests and industries are just a few of the many ways that people benefit from the Mid-Atlantic’s vibrant ocean environment.

An Increasing Need for a Regional Approach

Credit: Jim BrickettAs the region’s population increases and ocean uses intensify, the Mid-Atlantic will be faced with a new generation of ocean management challenges and opportunities. Ever increasing energy demands, a pressing need to embrace alternative energy development, and a growing public awareness of adverse climate change impacts have begun to fundamentally affect the way we view our coastal and offshore areas. Water quality impairments, particularly the increasing amounts of plastic and microplastics, continue to have negative impacts on ecosystem function and limit the quality of life in our coastal communities. And increased activity and disturbances in offshore areas threaten sensitive and unique habitats and ocean features.

MARCO Established in 2009

To address this new era of ocean challenges and opportunities, the Governors of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia in 2009 signed the Mid-Atlantic Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Conservation. The Agreement established the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) as a partnership to address shared regional priorities and provide a collective voice.

Four Shared Regional Priorities

The Governors’ Agreement identified four regional priorities for shared action to improve ocean health and contribute to the high quality of life and economic vitality of the region:

Climate Change Adaptation

Prepare the region’s coastal communities for the impacts of climate change on ocean and coastal resources.

Renewable Energy

Collaborating on a regional approach to support the sustainable development of renewable energy in offshore areas.

Marine Habitats

Coordinating the protection of important marine habitats, including sensitive and unique offshore areas such as corals, canyons and migration corridors.

Water Quality

Promoting improvements in ocean water quality.

Ocean Planning for the Future

MARCO uses regional ocean planning as a means to advance priorities identified in the Governors’ Agreement. Ocean planning is a process to improve understanding of how ocean resources and places are being used, managed, and conserved, and to establish a common foundation that will guide actions to address the shared regional priorities.

A Partnership for Effective, Efficient Solutions

MARCO leverages existing state and federal resources, knowledge, and partnerships to build a stronger base of information and experience to make well-informed decisions in the best interest of the states and their constituents. Leading MARCO’s efforts is the MARCO Management Board, which comprises senior coastal managers and policy advisors from each of the five member states and is responsible for implementing MARCO’s regional priorities. By working together, while recognizing the partners’ varying respective interests and needs, MARCO provides the states with expanded capacity to address pressing management challenges to improve ocean health, achieve sustainable use of ocean spaces and resources, and grow the vital ocean-based economy.

Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body: A Federal Initiative with Complementary Goals

Another important entity focusing on regional priorities is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (RPB). Whereas MARCO draws its membership from the governments of the five coastal Mid-Atlantic states, the RPB has state, federal, tribal, and Fishery Management Council representatives. The RPB was established in 2013 under a Presidential Executive Order establishing a National Ocean Policy to guide the protection, maintenance, and restoration of America’s oceans and coasts using identified regional priorities as a benchmark for ocean planning efforts. The National Ocean Policy requires federal agencies to work in a more coordinated, goal-oriented framework with states, tribes, and stakeholders.

MARCO and the RPB have both recognized the value of ocean planning to address a new generation of ocean management challenges and opportunities. Both entities understand that by working together we can build a solid foundation for promoting greater, more effective governmental and private investment, and for generating more attention on priority issues for the Mid-Atlantic region.

Page last updated: March 1, 2014