Coastal Spatial Planning Must Include Public

by Ryck Lydecker

Photo of an angler fishing near a pier

A report from a blue-ribbon panel of ocean experts calls on Congress and the White House to include the public “and stakeholders” at every step in the process of coastal and marine spatial planning, now under way at national and regional levels. That advice is among 10 specific recommendations from the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a partnership of two previous national study groups that advocated major changes in marine-resource management and ocean governance over seven years ago.

While acknowledging “ecosystem health is the major goal,” the commission also calls upon the President’s new National Ocean Council as well as regional marine-planning bodies to ensure that commercial activities that depend upon our ocean waters “are not slowed or halted during the planning process.” It recognizes recreational boating and sportfishing among commercial uses and further calls for better assessment of the value of recreational uses of ocean and coastal waters, economically and culturally.

The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative came together in 2005 following completion of studies by the private Pew Oceans Commission and the presidentially appointed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. Eight commissioners from both bodies now serve on the joint panel headed by William Ruckelshaus, first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and former California Congressman Norman Mineta.

“It’s encouraging to see an influential group like the Joint Ocean Council reiterating the importance of on-water recreation and calling for including the public in planning processes,” said BoatUS Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich. Marine spatial planning is one of nine ocean policy priorities outlined in an executive order signed by President Obama in June 2010. The order created a National Ocean Policy Council in the White House and Podlich said the focus now is shifting to state and regional planning for ocean uses.

“Marine spatial planning should accommodate the widest variety of activities, local needs, and economic opportunities. Public access to the water is key,” Podlich added. “That’s why boaters must stay informed, get organized at the grassroots level, and be ready to provide significant input as the marine-planning councils come into being and undertake these tasks.”

Boaters and anglers can stay informed on access issues by regularly visiting