14 Jun Nation’s First Regional Ocean Plan Needs Marine Industry’s Input

As waters become more crowded, Rhode Island boaters and marine industry members need their voices heard. Information on recreational boating helps our industry foster socioeconomic vitality and is critical to balancing the future of our ocean spaces.

On May 25th the Northeast Regional Planning Body (NE RPB) released the nation’s first draft Regional Ocean Plan (the Plan). The Northeast Ocean Plan incorporates data from the 2012 Northeast Recreational Boater Survey, which characterized recreational boating activity in the Northeast, including waters off Rhode Island. The RPB is accepting public comments on the draft plan through July 25th. Comments will be considered and incorporated in to a final version of the plan, which is scheduled for release this coming fall.

This is the opportunity to review the plan data and information related to marina industries and tell the RPB what you think. Did they do a good job? Great – they would love to hear that! Is there substantive data recreational boating data that is missing? The need to know that too so please share!

What Does the Plan Mean for Recreational Boaters?
The Plan strives to advance coastal and ocean data, improve engagement with ocean users, and enhance coordination among agencies who manage the ocean.

The Plan has emerged from over four years of active engagement and more than a decade of laying the groundwork in the region with diverse ocean sectors, including the recreational boating industry. The Plan will work within existing management frameworks to advance three overarching goals:

1. Achieve healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems,
2. Foster effective decision-making, and
3. Ensure compatibility among current and future ocean uses.

From commercial ship traffic to renewable energy and everything in between, there are many activities that could potentially overlap with where folks are boating and fishing. With the Plan and its related Data Portal, you now have access to a wealth of information that can help visualize some of these overlapping uses, and provide solid representation to Rhode Island’s marine industry.

Of particular interest:

• RPB agencies have committed to using the Data Portal to help identify recreational stakeholders potentially affected by a proposed agency action, which will enhance engagement among ports, communities, industries and especially boaters and marinas prior to decision-making.
• Additionally, RPB agencies have committed to developing additional data on recreational activities by leveraging other projects, incorporating information from state-based planning and management activities, and reviewing the results of government and industry-based surveys.

The Planning Process
The NE RPB is comprised of 6 New England states, 6 federally-recognized tribes, 9 federal agencies, and the New England Fishery Management Council. The formal ocean planning process began in November 2012, and over the last four years the NE RPB has engaged with stakeholders from 10 diverse ocean sectors through numerous public meetings, workshops, forums, and industry-specific projects.

To develop this draft plan, the NE RPB also engaged in extensive public outreach to thousands of people in an effort to achieve a science-based, data intensive plan with a full array of stakeholder voices. The plan is focused on the use of existing and novel data, and improvement in communication among ocean users and between agencies to advance both a healthy ocean and economy.

Next Steps
In addition to the public comment period that is open through July 25th, the NE RPB will be hosting a series of public meetings across the region. A full list of meetings is provided on the NE RPB’s website.