Unprecedented zoning process will be based on ecosystem approach
BY MIKE LEE, REPORTER
State officials decided last week that a hotly contested set of marine protected areas will take effect in the nearshore waters of Southern California on Jan. 1.
That planning process split the region into pro-fishing and no-fishing camps since it started in 2008, but it pales in comparison to the scope of a federal initiative that’s starting to take shape as a priority of the Obama administration.
The coastal and marine spatial planning process, launched by executive order in 2010, seeks to account for the full range of ocean uses, from wave energy and oil extraction to shipping and recreation. It’s supposed to span broad ecosystems instead of relying on the traditional sector-by-sector approach to regulating ocean activities.
The blueprint will extend the debate about marine uses from the three-mile limit of state waters to 200 miles from shore as part of an unprecedented national effort to balance a growing list of competing interests. It’s never been done on the national level in the United States, though a few states and other countries have created similar plans.
Think of them like ocean zoning maps covering nine regions of the country that say what activities are best suited for specific areas. If they work, they could give industries more confidence about investing in certain spots and conservationists clarity about which regions are designated for boosting marine life.
“It’s important to get ahead of the curve as demands for space in the ocean increase, but also to move deliberately to make sure all the relevant information is assembled and everyone is included,” said Karen Garrison, at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. “This is about keeping the ocean healthy and making sure it continues producing the benefits we depend on into the future.”
Momentum for ocean-use maps has grown along with concern about the ability of the world’s seas to handle pressures for ocean-based food, energy and other necessities. The California Current Ecosystem, which runs along the West Coast of the continental U.S., is among the most highly productive saltwater areas on Earth. It’s also one of the most difficult to manage because tens of millions of residents live within 50 miles of the shore and use the ocean in countless ways.
Read the rest from the San Diego Union-Tribune.