Ocean planning is a multi-stakeholder, data-driven public process to understand what people want for the future of their oceans, analyze the trade-offs among different uses of ocean space and resources, and coordinate management in a way that maximizes ecological, economic, and social values.
In the last decade, the practice of ocean planning has grown in use around the world, and for good reason. Ocean planning can be used to improve decision-making and management, protect and conserve ocean wildlife, reduce conflicts among interests, and increase efficiency in the use of public resources such as tax dollars and agency staff time. If done well, ocean planning can yield benefits for coastal communities and ocean industries desiring attractive and healthy seascapes, a more certain regulatory framework and reduced conflicts with other ocean users.
This approach to managing ocean space and resources is increasingly being adopted by governments, ocean industries, coastal communities, and other stakeholders in the US and Canada. This map provides a window into the proliferation of this approach in these two countries, the planning efforts that are underway and completed, and information about each effort.
In order to provide the most complete picture possible of ocean planning in the US and Canada, this catalogue takes a “big-tent” approach, including all processes that self-identify as ocean planning. The individual descriptions provide clarification on each process, including whether it is comprehensive of all uses, an important element of ocean planning.
If you have information about a new planning effort or updated data about an effort underway, please let us know! Click on the “Feedback?” button in the lower-right corner of the map and we will work with you to make sure the information for each entry is current.
Note: Data development boundaries for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Regions are used as placeholders until official planning boundaries are available.
More than 5% of US ocean waters are currently being planned or are already managed with ocean plans.
US oceans are home to a vast diversity of ecosystems, including the incredibly productive Gulf of Maine, majestic California kelp forests and the rich coral reefs of Hawaii. Nearly matching this diversity is the array of activities carried out in the ocean by fishermen, shipping vessels, tourism businesses, recreational boaters, conservationists and wildlife advocates, scientists, energy industries, harbormasters, undersea cable companies and all others who enjoy and use the oceans.
Historically, the US federal government and states have managed the uses and users of US oceans one-by-one and without consideration of cumulative impacts, failing to optimize the value Americans derive from their oceans. However, today in the United States, comprehensive ocean planning efforts are underway at all levels of government, from local to federal. US states such as Oregon, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have developed comprehensive ocean plans for their state waters. The experience and practices of state-based efforts inspired and informed the development of regional planning processes in federal waters (underway in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, US Caribbean, and Western Pacific Islands) under the 2010 National Ocean Policy.
More than 28% of Canadian ocean waters are currently being planned or are already managed with ocean plans.
Canadian oceans are home to a magnificent diversity of ecosystems, from the kelp forests of British Columbia to the polynyas (areas of open water surrounded by sea ice) of Lancaster Sound. Nearly matching this diversity is the array of activities carried out in the ocean by fishermen, First Nations and Inuit subsistence hunters, shipping vessels, tourism businesses, recreational boaters, conservationists and wildlife advocates, scientists, energy industries, harbormasters, undersea cable companies, and all others who want to enjoy and use the oceans.
In 1997, Canada became the first country in the world to mandate integrated ocean management, through the Oceans Act. The Act called for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to “lead and facilitate the development and implementation of plans for the integrated management of all activities or measures in or affecting estuaries, coastal waters and marine waters...” What resulted were some of the world’s earliest efforts to apply ocean planning tools and processes to maintain the health of Canada’s oceans while maximizing their sustainable use.
Aboriginal, Provincial, Territorial, and Federal governments have various degrees of jurisdiction over the many activities that take place in Canadian waters. Thus, planning for this large area (7.1 million km2, or 70% the size of Canada’s land mass) takes shared objective-setting and broader coordination among the different levels of government. Several First Nations governments, working with provincial government agencies in British Columbia have developed comprehensive ocean plans for their waters. This experience has illustrated that governments working together and with stakeholders is an effective route to generating ocean plans in Canada. It has also shown that ocean plans produce a mosaic of use and conservation that can put coastal communities and the ocean resources on which they depend on a trajectory for a healthy future.
We want to hear from you! Are there other ocean planning areas we should add (send us a shapefile!)? Or other information or updates we should take into account? Let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The map uses a custom map projection to show the true sizes of the coastal areas of the United States and Canada. Most web-based maps use the Mercator projection, which distorts the sizes of regions near the poles, making Northern Canada and the Arctic Ocean appear much larger than they really are.
Our map uses a Lambert Azimuthal Equal-area projection which has been modified so that the center of the projection is at 105°W, 40°N. This projection shows accurate sizes everywhere on the map. However, as a side effect, north is not always "up" on this map. As you look at places that are further away from the center of the map, the curvature of the earth becomes apparent. Keep your eye on the graticule lines (the grid of thin blue lines out in the ocean) to help you figure out which direction is north.
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