Friday, July 29, 2011

Businesses Form WOC To Participate In Marine Spatial Planning

Jul 29: The World Ocean Council (WOC) convened the first-ever meeting of ocean industries at the National Business Forum on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), Washington DC, July 13-14, 2011, to foster, facilitate and plan for cross sector business involvement in the U.S. MSP process. Forum participants included representatives from offshore oil and gas, offshore renewable energy, shipping, fisheries, marine recreation, mining, marine technology, marine law, marine environmental services, and other sectors.
    On July 19, 2010 the Task Force released a set of final recommendations that set a new direction for improved stewardship of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. The recommendations provide: (1) our Nation's first ever national ocean policy; (2) a strengthened governance structure to provide sustained, high-level, and coordinated attention to ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes issues; (3) a targeted implementation strategy that identifies and prioritizes nine categories for action that the United States should pursue; and (4) a framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning.
    The NOAA Ocean Policy Task Force defines coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) as "a comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based, and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas. Coastal and marine spatial planning identifies areas most suitable for various types or classes of activities in order to reduce conflicts among uses, reduce environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses, and preserve critical ecosystem services to meet economic, environmental, security, and social objectives."

    According to a release, the recently initiated MSP agenda pursuant to President Obama's National Ocean Policy is moving rapidly, creating a critical opportunity for the ocean business community to actively engage in a coordinated, multi-sectoral manner. In 2010, the Federal government established an interagency National Ocean Council (NOC), and marine spatial plans are to be developed by nine regional planning bodies as early as 2015. The NOC issued a Strategic Action Plan Outline in June 2011 and held a national workshop soon after to prepare government agencies for the task of developing the government's MSP Strategic Action Plan. Unlike the ocean industry community, the environmental community has had a national MSP coalition for several years and is actively involved in the MSP process.

    WOC indicates that the ocean business community needs to get equally well organized and integrated into the discussion on MSP. To address this, the WOC brought together leadership companies and associations concerned about access to ocean space and resources in a National Business Forum. The Forum was co-presented by Battelle Memorial Institute with additional sponsorship from the National Ocean Industries Association and Blank Rome.
    The Forum was designed for ocean industries to develop a clear understanding of MSP, define and examine the potential business impacts and benefits of MSP, ensure the business community is informed about U.S. MSP processes and plans, and identify the next steps to facilitate and coordinate business involvement in MSP in the U.S. The participants emphasized that MSP must be well-balanced, well-informed and consider socio-economic value and benefits as a key part of the process. Private sector input was clear that MSP needs to have the business community and economic actors involved throughout the process.

    The business community voiced concerns that opportunities for ocean industries to formally contribute to MSP have not targeted engaging those industries which contribute significantly to the U.S. economy and need to become a more structural part of the US MSP process. To address the lack of formal engagement, industry participants at the Forum emphasized the value and strength in bringing together diverse ocean industry sectors to engage with MSP decision makers in a coordinated manner, and to establish formal avenues for frequent and ongoing information exchange and involvement.

    Access a release from WOC (click here, posted soon). Access a list of corporate members (click here). Access the WOC website for more information (click here). Access the NOAA CSMP website for more details and background information (click here).