The old balkanized approach to ocean management, in which different resources and activities are governed by different laws and administered by different agencies, has failed to protect ocean ecosystems or reduce conflicts between ocean users, a panel of international scientists says, and should be replaced with a more balanced approach using marine spatial planning.
The panel, organized by scientists from Duke University, made its case at a symposium at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 20, at this year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) in San Diego.
Marine spatial planning begins with the creation of detailed, comprehensive maps of a marine area, identifying where and how it is used by humans and what natural resources and habitats exist within it.
Coastal communities can then use this information to set economic, environmental and social goals for that area, and allocate space within it for different uses, including fishing, shipping, recreation, conservation, oil and gas development, or renewable energy production.
"By building comprehensive maps and bringing people together to plan the future of an ocean space, we can minimize conflicts and look for ways to maximize benefits," says Larry Crowder, director of the Duke Center for Marine Conservation. "The result is a fairer and more effective approach to how our oceans are used -- ensuring that diverse human uses are supported while healthy marine ecosystems are maintained for all our benefit."
The use of marine spatial planning has gained momentum nationwide in recent years; there are now active programs in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Oregon.
In June 2009, President Obama directed 22 U.S. federal agencies with ocean-related programs to develop "a framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning" that addresses conservation, economic activities, user conflicts and sustainable use of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. A draft of the framework was released in December. That month, Scientific American magazine chose marine spatial planning as one of "20 World Changing Ideas."
The AAAS meeting is the largest general science conference of the year. Being invited to present or moderate a symposium at AAAS is widely viewed as a measure of a researcher's high stature in his or her field.
The AAAS symposium on marine spatial planning included presentations by:
Morgan Gopnik, currently a PhD candidate in marine science and conservation at Duke, moderated the symposium. She served for seven years as director of the Ocean Studies Board at the National Academy for Sciences, before being appointed senior advisor to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, where she oversaw the writing of the commission's final report to Congress and the White House. She subsequently served as senior vice president for programs at The Ocean Conservancy. In addition to pursing a PhD at Duke, Gopnik is an independent consultant on ocean management issues to foundations, association and nonprofit organizations.
Materials provided by Duke University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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