Obama launches task force on marine planning

On 12 June, U.S. President Barack Obama established a task force to help create a national policy for the country's marine waters. The task force is to provide recommendations for the policy and its implementation by mid-September, as well as develop a framework for effective marine spatial planning by December. The group consists of senior officials from multiple federal departments and agencies with jurisdiction over the ocean. The president's proclamation is at www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Presidential-Proclamation-National-Oceans-Month-and-Memorandum-regarding-national-policy-for-the-oceans.

U.S. state of Massachusetts releases draft ocean planning map

On 1 July, the U.S. state of Massachusetts released a draft ocean management plan for public comment. The draft plan establishes three management categories and applies them to Massachusetts ocean waters: Prohibited Area, Multi-Use Area, and Renewable Energy Area. It is considered the first draft plan in the U.S. to apply comprehensive marine spatial planning. Massachusetts' marine jurisdiction extends 3 nm from shore.

Expected to be finalized by the end of 2009, the ocean plan will provide a framework for managing, reviewing, and permitting proposed uses of state waters. Until now, development in state waters has been managed on a case-by-case basis. Driving the plan's development have been proposals for offshore wind-energy farms in Massachusetts waters, which have drawn opposition from coastal communities in the state. The draft plan is at www.mass.gov/eea/mop.

Journal theme issue on tropical marine EBM

The May 2009 issue of the journal Coastal Management is a special theme issue devoted to the feasibility of tropical marine EBM. Based on the findings of a working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the issue draws on hundreds of interviews and a review of field experiences from around the world. The authors describe several design principles for successful EBM programs, including that the programs:

  • Be tailored to each location;
  • Utilize a wide variety of tools, such as creating MPAs and managing fishing effort;
  • Balance ecological concerns with social and governance concerns; and
  • Have the sustained commitment of institutions, governments, resource users, scientists, and donors.

The case studies present research from the Philippines, the Caribbean, the Benguela Current (Southern Atlantic Ocean), and Hawaii. Most of the theme issue (Vol. 37, Issue 3&4) is available for purchase only, although an overview article is available for free at www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a910537346~db=all~order=page.

Large marine ecosystems are undergoing changes

According to a new report by the UN Environment Programme, 61 of the world's 64 large marine ecosystems have exhibited a significant increase in sea surface temperature in the last quarter-century. These increases have contributed to declines in fisheries catches in most LMEs, concludes the report. However, it adds, some northern Atlantic LMEs are actually seeing increased fisheries catches, as their previously cold waters are warmed and become more hospitable to zooplankton. Plankton forms the base of the ocean food web.The publication also concludes that LMEs face continued challenges from threats such as overfishing, habitat degradation, eutrophication, toxic pollution, aerosol contamination, and emerging diseases. The UNEP Large Marine Ecosystem Report: A Perspective on Changing Conditions in LMEs of the World's Regional Seas is available at www.lme.noaa.gov/LMEWeb/Downloads/unep_lme_report.zip.

Report: best practices in Arctic marine EBM

A new Arctic Council publication details existing work by several Arctic nations in marine EBM, and distills a set of lessons learned to this point in the region. The report Best Practices in Ecosystems Based Oceans Management in the Arctic represents the findings of a two-year Arctic Council project. It features seven case studies (Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the U.S.), as well as a chapter on indigenous perspectives.

The report summarizes the best practices for Arctic EBM as:

  • Flexible application;
  • Integrated and science-based decision-making;
  • Commitment to ecosystem-based oceans management;
  • Area-based approaches and transboundary perspectives;
  • Stakeholder participation; and
  • Adaptive management.

As addressed in the report, the application of EBM to Arctic waters raises a number of issues across the region, including ice-covered waters, transboundary cooperation, fisheries management, exploitation of petroleum under severe climatic conditions, long-range transport of pollutants, indigenous communities, and the impacts of climate change.

The 116-page report, published by the Norwegian Polar Institute, is available at http://portal.sdwg.org/media.php?mid=1017&xwm=true.