In June 2009, President Obama established an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and charged it with developing a national ocean policy and recommending actions that include “a comprehensive, ecosystem-based framework for the long-term conservation and use of our resources.” A year later, President Obama adopted the Final Recommendations of the Task Force through executive order and established a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Oceans, Our Coasts and Great Lakes. This historic policy constitutes a cohesive approach to enhancing ocean and coastal stewardship. The National Policy clearly states that healthy oceans matter and U.S. policy will now reflect the goal of ensuring healthy, productive, and resilient ecosystems and the communities and economies that support them. The National Policy calls for ecosystem-based management (EBM) as an overarching way the Government must operate differently to improve stewardship. EBM is a place-based, holistic approach to management that considers connections between people and ecosystems, and among ecosystem components. Central to this is a shift from single-sector/single-species management toward comprehensive ecosystem based coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP). CMSP is a public policy process that transcends traditional sectors, jurisdictions, geographies and constituencies by taking a holistic approach to comprehensive planning and management. We currently regulate human activities in our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes at the Federal level with over 140 statutes, regulations, and policies. New regulation is not the answer. Instead, through CMSP we will begin to understand both sides of the equation, including what we get from our oceans and coasts and how our activities impact ecosystem services, so we can make better decisions on how and where we live, work, and play on our coasts. The National Policy calls for a series of regional planning bodies (RPBs), consisting of federal, state, and tribal agencies in each region, to develop and implement EBM through comprehensive CMS Plans within existing statutory and regulatory authorities. Through CMSP, the RPBs can identify areas suitable for specific types of activities to reduce user conflicts, minimize environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses, and preserve critical ecosystem functioning and services. This session will discuss NOAA’s efforts and contributions to implementing CMSP through collaborations with our partners, coordination and capacity building, and tool development and scientific expertise for CMSP decision making.
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