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Obama Administration Issues Nation's First National Ocean Policy

July 20, 2010- Today, President Obama issued an executive order adopting the Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force calling for a first ever comprehensive and integrated National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes and directed the federal agencies to implement them under the guidance of a National Ocean Council. The recommendations were issued yesterday afternoon by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The executive order will, among other things, put into motion the development of regional and comprehensive, ecosystem-based coastal and marine spatial plans including one for the New England region that will cover the huge expanse of federal ocean waters which stretch from 3 to 200 miles offshore.  Mass Ocean Coalition members will have a great start on this new federal ocean planning process in New England thanks to our work on the Massachusetts Ocean Plan. For more information on the National Ocean Policy, go to the CEQ’s ocean policy website at

The Commonwealth Releases First-In-The-Nation Final Ocean Management Plan

January 4, 2010-As required by the Massachusetts Ocean Act, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) finalized and released the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan on January 4, 2010. The culmination of sixteen months of research and analysis and intense public participation, the Ocean Plan is required by law to protect special, sensitive and unique marine resource areas while also promoting responsible ocean development, including renewable energy, in state ocean waters. This comprehensive ocean management plan is the first of its kind in the nation and represents an important building block for the Obama Administration's effort to develop a National Ocean Policy built around regional ocean management plans.

During the Public Comment period, which ended in November of 2009, the Mass Ocean Coalition reviewed the Draft Ocean Plan, and submitted a comment letter to EEA with the following proposed revisions:

  1. Protect Special Sensitive and Unique Marine Resources
  2. Clarify the Role of Regional Planning Agencies
  3. Establish Clear Guidelines for Data Usage

The Commonwealth responded by strengthening the siting and performance standards for projects proposed in special, sensitive or unique (SSU) areas; providing more details on the siting of renewable energy facilities and the role of Regional Planning Authorities; and articulating clear standards for updating the plan with new data and making interim adjustments during the first five years as needed. The Ocean Plan calls for the creation of an interagency Ocean Team to coordinate state ocean management and sets forth a robust Science Framework to advance the state of knowledge on the Massachusetts marine environment and subsequent updates of the Ocean Plan. The Ocean Plan also stipulates continuing roles for the Ocean Advisory Commission and the Ocean Science Advisory Council in monitoring Ocean Plan implementation and assisting in the development of plan revisions. Members of the Mass Ocean Coalition are encouraged to review in detail the Final Ocean Management Plan.

Moving forward, the Commonwealth will update relevant state regulations in early 2010 to ensure that they are consistent with the plan.

To see other public comments submitted to EEA during the draft management plan comment period, visit the Commonwealth's Ocean Management website.

Background: Ocean Management in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ 1500 miles of coastline and its 1.6 million acres of subtidal lands are an integral part of New England’s ocean waters. They belong to all of us, yet they face a tidal wave of proposed new uses. In order to protect our important natural resources and guide all development activity, including renewable energy, the Commonwealth has released the first-in-the-nation Draft Ocean Management Plan. A requirement of the Massachusetts Oceans Act, this landmark ocean management plan is designed to end decades of ad hoc decision making by establishing a coordinated plan that seeks to balance economic growth with protection of marine wildlife and habitat.

About the Mass Ocean Coalition

Our Mission -- The Massachusetts Ocean Coalition represents over 40 member organizations working together to build a Massachusetts Ocean Plan that balances commercial and recreational activities with conservation needs in order to ensure a healthy ocean legacy for the Bay State.

Our History -- The Massachusetts Ocean Coalition championed the passage of the Massachusetts Oceans Act, making Massachusetts the first state in the nation to develop a comprehensive management plan for its ocean waters. Now, we are working to make sure that this plan protects the ocean resources vital to the future of the people of Massachusetts.

The Coalition will work to ensure that the Ocean Plan includes specific measures that:

  1. Protect underwater habitats essential to unique marine life.
  2. Allow uses only where they can coexist with healthy marine ecosystems.
  3. Design new uses in ways that maintain the oceans living resources.

The Coalition will work to ensure that the Ocean Plan incorporates:

  1. Input from a wide range of ocean users
  2. The best available science
  3. Newly emerging information

Get Involved

The Massachusetts Ocean Plan Website

This Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) website provides information on the Massachusetts Ocean Plan, including details about the Ocean Act of 2008, the public participation process, the Ocean Advisory Commission and Ocean Science Advisory Council, and background information on ocean planning.

Massachusetts Ocean Partnership (MOP)

MOP is a broadly representative public-private partnership created to support and advance ecosystem-based integrated multi-use management of the Commonwealth's coastal ocean resources. The partnership will work to improve the management, understanding and health of MA coastal ocean waters to ensure thriving ocean ecosystems and their continued capacity to serve vital ecological, economic, recreational and other needs. MOP's primary near-term goal is to support the development and implementation of an integrated multi-use ocean management plan for MA waters. Responsible state, local and federal agencies will develop, implement and enforce the integrated multi-use ocean management plan; MOP will provide support and coordination for this complex undertaking.

© 2008 Massachusetts Ocean Action Coalition
Conservation Law Foundation | Mass Audubon