US releases draft action plans for addressing national ocean policy objectives

The US national ocean policy prioritizes nine objectives to address challenges that face the country's coastal and marine resources. The federal interagency National Ocean Council is overseeing development of strategic action plans for each of the nine objectives. As a first step, the council has released draft strategic action plan outlines of each objective for public comment.

The purpose of the action plans is to provide an initial view on how federal agencies might address the priority objectives. Among the broad objectives are ecosystem-based management and coastal and marine spatial planning.

The review is open for 30 days from 2 June 2011. To download and comment on the draft action plans, go to

Book helps coastal managers address problems that arise upstream

Among the challenges faced by managers of coral reefs and other coastal ecosystems is the flow of multiple harmful substances down rivers and streams from upland areas. These substances include sediments, nutrients (including from sewage), pesticides, heavy metals, and litter, among other things.

There is now a guide to help coastal managers deal with these issues, including through cooperation with people and industries upstream. The 120-page publication Catchment Management and Coral Reef Conservation: A Practical Guide for Coastal Resource Managers to Reduce Damage from Catchment Areas Based on Best Practice Case Studies draws lessons from 33 case studies in Asia, the Pacific, Australia, the Caribbean, and the tropical Atlantic.

Among the guide's key messages is the importance of raising public awareness of problems and solutions. "Often people are unaware that their actions are causing damage to downstream areas," write co-authors Clive Wilkinson and Jon Brodie. "With good information and explanatory materials, it is possible to form partnerships with people living and working upstream in the catchment area to solve problems that happen downstream." Useful as a training manual and published by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the guide can be downloaded at In addition, paper copies are available for free if you pay the shipping cost. For a paper copy, e-mail Clive Wilkinson at

EU study suggests maritime spatial planning will have large positive economic effect

A new study carried out on behalf of the European Commission analyzes the potential direct and indirect economic effects of marine spatial planning, as well as the benefits to come from implementing MSP throughout EU waters. (The EU refers to marine spatial planning as maritimespatial planning.)

The study finds that if the MSP process "is managed properly," the economic effects are fourfold: (1) enhanced coordination and simplified decision processes, (2) enhanced legal certainty for all stakeholders in the maritime arena, (3) enhanced cross-border cooperation and (4) enhanced coherence with other planning systems. Furthermore, several additional non-economic effects are likely to result from MSP, such as support for management in realizing a good environmental status in EU coasts and seas.

"Maritime spatial planning can have a significant and substantial positive economic effect on Europe's maritime economy," concludes the study. "[MSP] should therefore be seen as one of the steps forward to improving the competitive position of European Member States." Study on the Economic Effects of Maritime Spatial Planning is available at

Report offers guidance on tools for marine spatial planning

Marine spatial planning (MSP) can be a complex process: it involves reducing conflicts and optimizing the compatibility of uses while minimizing environmental impacts at the same time. As a result of the amount of data that can be involved, many practitioners are turning to software tools that incorporate and analyze maps, models, databases, and other information to inform planners' decisions. These are called decision support tools, and they provide a holistic view of where proposed ocean uses may be viable.

A new report aims to help coastal planners and managers select the right decision support tools for their needs. Produced by the Center for Ocean Solutions and PacMARA, Decision Guide: Selecting Decision Support Tools for Marine Spatial Planning describes the function of nine decision support tools and how their capabilities align with steps in a typical MSP process, such as gathering data and identifying issues and constraints. It draws on case studies of each tool as applied in an MSP setting."The Decision Guide does not set out to convince people to adopt MSP," says Meg Caldwell, executive director of the Center for Ocean Solutions. "It meets people where they are, gives them good information about what MSP involves, and describes readily available tools they should consider, whatever their planning needs might be." Decision Guide: Selecting Decision Support Tools for Marine Spatial Planning is at

New research center conducts wide range of marine EBM- and MSP-related studies

The new Center for Marine Assessment and Planning (CMAP) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, unites all activities at the university related to science, policy, management, use, and conservation in the oceans. This includes multiple projects pertaining to marine EBM and marine spatial planning (MSP). Among these are research programs on cumulative impact assessments, integrated land-sea planning, various decision support tools, sustainable fisheries, spatial tradeoffs for marine planning, governance for sustainable development, and the Ocean Health Index, which measures the status of and trends in multiple components that determine global ocean health. CMAP is directed by Ben Halpern. The program website is

Unique guidebook provides advice on communication between decision-makers and scientists

A new publication from the Science-to-Action partnership provides practical tips for decision-makers and scientists on how to communicate with each other on matters of marine resource management. The Science-to-Action Guidebook consists of two sections: "A Decision-maker's Guide to Using Science" and "A Scientist's Guide to Influencing Decision-making". One section starts from the front, the other from the back, and they meet in the middle as a summary centerfold. The guidebook draws heavily on cases from around the world.

The Science-to-Action partnership involves more than 400 scientists and 75 partner institutions worldwide in studies on marine managed areas. For an electronic copy of the 20-page guidebook, go to Printed copies of the Science-to-Action Guidebook are available on request by contacting Septiana Rustandi at

Advice on applying coastal and marine spatial planning

To advise the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on developing coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) at a regional and national level, a working group of NOAA's Science Advisory Board has produced a review of 17 marine spatial planning processes from around the world. The review's findings and recommendations focus on seven measures that it identifies as central to development of CMSP: objectives, scope, authority, participants, data, decision support, and measures. The 36-page report Strategic Advice on Designing and Implementing Coastal and Marine Spatial Plans is available at

Book on EBM practice in Wider Caribbean

A new publication examines the practice of marine ecosystem-based management as it exists across the Wider Caribbean region, drawing on the collective experience and knowledge of practitioners and academics. Published by Amsterdam University Press, the book Towards Marine Ecosystem-based Management in the Wider Caribbean aims to provide a roadmap for achieving more robust implementation of EBM throughout the Caribbean Sea. Its primary audience is practitioners, decision-makers, and stakeholders in the region, but it may also be of use in other large marine ecosystems that face similar challenges to making EBM operational. It was edited by Lucia Fanning (Dalhousie University, Canada) and Robin Mahon and Patrick McConney (both of the University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados). The book is available for €42.50 (US $60.30) at

Issue of IUCN Marine News available

The latest issue of Marine News, the newsletter of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, was released in May 2011. It covers the topics of protecting the high seas, identifying areas of high biodiversity in the Arctic, improving management of Mediterranean MPAs, and more. The newsletter is produced irregularly by IUCN, appearing annually or semi-annually. The current issue and back issues are available at