Moves towards region’s first Ocean Action Plan


MARCO Chair Laura McKay of Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program is featured in this new short film on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast’s regional ocean planning processes. The film was produced by Swell Productions in collaboration with the Surfrider Foundation.


The Mid-Atlantic is making significant progress towards its commitment to deliver an Ocean Action Plan targeted for release in mid 2016.   This Plan is being built through a regional ocean planning process that brings together states, tribes, federal agencies, the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and a cross-section of ocean stakeholders to build a more coordinated, goal-oriented framework for ocean management. The Mid-Atlantic RPB (MidA RPB), formally established in April 2013, is the official body that coordinates and implements this regional ocean planning process in our region. Each of the five MARCO states are active members of the MidA RPB and contribute both individually and as a group to the formation of the Ocean Action Plan through data analysis and synthesis, active inter-agency coordination, implementation of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal (an online mapping tool built to inform the plan) and through stakeholder engagement.


The purpose of the Mid-Atlantic regional ocean planning initiative is to facilitate sustainable, safe, productive, and appropriate economic development activities and to support the protection and restoration of the marine ecosystem so that it continues to provide the many goods and services that the people of the Mid-Atlantic want and need into the future.


A major milestone was reached this past month as MARCO contracted with consultants and a research institution to deliver important components of the Plan.  These products include an ecological data synthesis, a human use data synthesis and a Regional Ocean Assessment. A public webinar to present these contractors, along with scopes and methods for information synthesis to support regional ocean planning in the Mid-Atlantic was held on July 13thMaterials from this webinar are now available on line.


Additional opportunities for stakeholder engagement, input and information will be held in late summer and early fall, including:



Workshop on draft data products and Interjurisdictional Coordination (IJC) actions

September 22, 2015  | 10:30am – 6:00pm

Norfolk Waterside Marriott
235 East Main Street

Norfolk, VA

In-person workshop in Norfolk, VA held the day immediately prior to the RPB meeting.  Input will be solicited on draft data products and proposed IJC opportunities and actions.  RPB members are also encouraged to participate.


Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (MidA RPB) in-person public meeting

September 23-25, 2015

Norfolk Waterside Marriott
235 East Main Street

Norfolk, VA

Full meeting of the MidA RPB will include MidA RPB discussions about draft data synthesis and information products, draft interjurisdictional coordination opportunities and actions, and components of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan.  The MidA RPB will offer opportunities for public comment on these topics.



The Benefits of Ocean Planning


Marine patternAll of this momentum in the Mid-Atlantic comes on the heels of a new study documenting the benefits of ocean planning in case studies from around the world. The study was published in the June issue of the academic journal Marine Policy and looked at five established ocean plans – from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Norway and Belgium.


Key findings from this study include:

  • The empirical study looked at five government-approved ocean plans, all of which resulted in broadly shared net benefits.
  • Economically, planning delivered net benefits, particularly for offshore wind. The five ocean plans delivered on average $60 million per year in value from new industries and retained value in existing industries, although some stakeholders bore losses and government spending did not decrease.
  • Environmentally, planning increased marine protection and spurred wind energy. Planning increased marine protection, ensured industrial uses avoided sensitive habitat, cut carbon emissions, and reduced the risk of oil spills
  • Socially, marine planning increased broad stakeholder engagement (thus improving design and administration of plans), while building trust that will likely improve sustainable future use of ocean space.



A Bright Blue Mid-Atlantic Future


GettyImages-NY whale.smallerWe’re still a year away from an Ocean Action Plan for the Mid-Atlantic but we’re already seeing positive signs of success similar to those outlined in the study.   Federal and state agencies, tribes, the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and many ocean stakeholders are communicating positively and coordinating efforts amongst one another like never before. The Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal has compiled a rich tapestry of Mid-Atlantic data, providing a much-needed foundation for the planning process while also creating a public resource with myriad applications and benefits to individual ocean uses.  And a Regional Ocean Assessment, currently under development, will help us better understand our ocean, how we use it and where we’re headed as a region. This snapshot in time provides a foundation on which the plan is being built.


Learn more about Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Planning and get involved at:


Access the paper:

Assessing the impact of a new approach to ocean management: Evidence to date from five ocean plans.