The Northeast Ocean Plan

The Northeast Ocean Plan (the “Plan”) was developed pursuant to Executive Order 13547 “Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes” (July 19, 2010), which adopted the White House Council on Environmental Quality  “Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force,” and established the National Ocean Policy.  On December 1, 2016, the National Ocean Council (whose Director is Massachusetts’ own Deerin Babb-Brott) certified that the Plan is consistent with the National Ocean Policy.  The Plan is advisory and for use with the companion Northeast Ocean Data Portal, which contains thousands of maps of the components of the marine ecosystem and human activities.  It is hoped the Plan and Data Portal will enhance agency decision-making, encourage the compatibility of ocean uses, and promote healthy ocean ecosystems.

All six New England States (even landlocked Vermont) are signatories.  State and federal agencies will consider the relevant data and information in the Plan to inform decision-making regarding activities such as:

  • Offshore wind energy leasing and development
  • Wave and ocean current energy facilities
  • Offshore oil and gas planning, leasing and development
  • Offshore sand extraction
  • LNG facilities
  • Disposal of dredged material
  • Navigational impacts (aquaculture, cables, pipelines)

The States pledge to use the Plan “which may depend in part on federal agencies’ commitment to the Plan and timely update of its data and information.”  Given the Trump administration’s anti-science mindset, the order to approve the Dakota Access shale oil and Keystone XL natural gas pipelines without full environmental reviews, the promise to cut federal agencies’ budgets, and to repeal, replace or modify environmental regulations (including those related to the ocean), the Plan and Portal may be useful to applicants and state agencies, but may gather dust until the Presidential pendulum swings back toward environmental protection.

A Call To Action

Each September through November, volunteers participate in COASTSWEEP, a state-wide coastal cleanup of marine debris.  Sponsored by MassCZM in coordination with the Ocean Conservatory’s International Coastal Cleanup, individuals, families, organizations and companies collect and catalogue the waste defiling our beaches and waterways, identify the sources of the debris, and act to stop ocean dumping.  Our clients spend billions to build homes and businesses and to recreate in the coastal zone that is under constant attack from trash, primarily from land-based sources (washed out to sea by rivers, streams and storm drains).  Plastics pose the greatest risk to marine wildlife (seabirds and turtles).  Marine debris damages the health and safety, economics, and aesthetics of those who live, work and play along Massachusetts’ 1,500 miles of coastline.

We shouldn’t wait for the islands of ocean garbage to landfall; or for syringes, feces and nasty floatables to wash up on our beaches (as happened in Quincy prompting the cleanup of Boston Harbor).  We encourage our clients, consultants and friends to join in an important opportunity to make a difference by cleaning up fishing nets, lines, traps and buoys, plastic bags, and consumer products that desecrate our marine environment.  To learn more about eye-opening marine debris statistics and oddities, cleanup events, and organizing, joining or sponsoring a team, go to MassCZM’s COASTSWEEP site.

Embrace your stewardship!