• National Ocean Council inches forward with marine spatial planning agenda (Seafood.com News)

    SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Environment and Energy Daily]

    by Allison Winter, E&E reporter Jan 13, 2012 – The Obama administration today released a new draft “action plan” that directs agencies across the federal government to work together on ocean planning and conservation.

    The 118-page report instructs federal agencies to post all nonconfidential maps and research on oceans to a new central ocean data website over the next three years. It directs federal agencies to streamline ocean and coastal permitting processes, beginning with aquaculture. It calls on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to initiate plans this year for better sea ice mapping. And it sketches a process for regional councils to develop comprehensive ocean plans by 2019.

    The draft plan from the interagency National Ocean Council is the next step in the administration’s ambitious efforts to create a wide-ranging national ocean policy and comprehensive planning for projects and development at sea. It is open for public comment through the end of February.

    “This action plan will help focus our resources on actions that will enhance the stewardship of coastal and marine resources on which so many communities, small businesses and American jobs depend,” said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

    President Obama signed an executive order last summer that put the National Ocean Policy in motion. The order created a National Ocean Council, akin to the National Security Council, on which representatives of the 27 agencies with oversight of the oceans and Great Lakes come together to attempt to improve coordination and planning on marine issues.

    The report is the council’s first major effort, and it lays out actions and deadlines for the nine major objectives that were included in the National Ocean Policy.

    The most controversial aspect of the ocean policy has been plans for regional bodies across the United States to begin “coastal and marine spatial planning.” The plans would map out different uses for the ocean and could designate areas that are prime for development or that need to be protected as sensitive marine habitat.

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