Sep 27 2011

Agencies prepare to carve up coastal waters

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.

One comment on “Agencies prepare to carve up coastal waters

  1. This allows a corporate takeover of the peoples resources. The ocean cannot be polluted in one area hoping that the pollution is going to stay there and not pollute neighboring ocean habitats. Our coastal waters are important to the people for SUSTAINABLE NATURAL FOOD. No other uses should take presidence over such an important use. Privatizing the ocean will be the industrialization of it and will kill off any hope of passing it on to our children. Aquaculture is not the answer to hunger, it will just cause the wild stocks to die of introduced diseases.

    Susan Sack on said:

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