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High stakes in new ocean and coastal policy development

Part 1: Remember the days when we guys would push the gas pedal to the floor and “burn rubber” when the light turned green? It would draw lots of attention, but we were often trying to get somewhere too fast.

Similarly, the White House has been screeching its tires since last June 12 when President Obama created an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and charged it with developing a new national policy that “ensures protection, maintenance, and restoration of oceans, our coasts and the Great Lakes.” The Task Force was directed to issue an Interim Report by September and, further, to develop a recommended framework for “improved stewardship, and effective coastal and marine spatial planning” by Dec. 9. Now, that timetable gives new meaning to “burn rubber!”

Whether this process aimed at creating a new paradigm for managing our coastal and marine areas could be best served by taking it slower is debatable. What’s not is that the Task Force defines Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning as “a comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas.” Geez! — can you say, ocean zoning?

There is no doubt those who assert that our nation’s ocean policy has been long adrift may have a point. After all, on the federal level, our oceans and coasts are reportedly governed by more than 140 laws and 20 agencies, each with different, and in some cases conflicting, goals and mandates. By any definition, that’s a bureaucratic mess! An overarching national policy that could streamline things is a goal worthy of time and effort. Moreover, everyone should favor sustainable uses of our oceans and the Great Lakes for activities like recreational boating in all its forms.

That said, however, one can easily foresee extended conflicts, disputed priorities, agency turf wars, environmentalists vs. users, regional vs local battles, winners and losers and more as every interest pushes to keep from being squeezed out or marginalized.

Haven’t heard about all this before? Not surprising. The media is preoccupied with partisan political stories these days. But, as is often the case, NMMA has been taking the lead for the boating industry since the start. Specifically, Mathew Dunn and the Washington staff submitted initial industry comments on the Presidential Memo announcing the Task Force in July. This was followed by more comments when the Interim Report came out. Finally, most extensively, commented were again submitted just prior to the closing of the latest comment period that ended last week. In addition, NMMA has partnered with nine other allied boating and fishing organizations to address this ongoing process. But, in spite of all that, it’s likely there will be a long road ahead for us on this one.

If just reading this much gives you a feeling that the stakes could be very high for our industry, you’re right. The issues are already complex — too much so to cover in one short blog. That is why I plan to tell you more about this in Part 2 next Tuesday here at Dealer Outlook.?


4 comments on “High stakes in new ocean and coastal policy development

  1. Captain Andrew

    Norm—This is a big one. What drives me nuts is the fact restrictions will be put on the recreational fisherman because the commercial fisherman will get all the breaks.

  2. Chris Marely

    The stakes are high. I remember many years ago in Venice Italy staring out at the lagoon from a canal that lead out of the island a boat passed. In this beautiful city with a beautiful boat passing a small brown stick gently washed up to the edge of the canal. When I looked closer, it was not a log. It took almost 30 years before they cleaned up the lagoon and canals. In the meantime the recrecational boats disappeared. The moral of the story is that years of inaction took 30 years to recover.

  3. New Englander

    Dear Norm: Thank you for drawing attention to the issue of Ocean Management. MA just became the first state in the nation to legislatively mandate an Ocean Management Plan for its coastal waters. After a year of non-stop meetings, public forums and private education, the plan that became final in December 2009 is one that had enormous input from the spectrum of conservationists, alternative energy developers, recreational boating and commercial maritime interests to name just a few.

    It was a remarkable process to witness and the end result is substantial. I do know that the planning process created extensive new connections by and between boating folks, regulators and environmental advocates. In the end, boating interests and boating’s economic impact got lots of “ah has” from all and was duly respected in the final ocean management plan. MA Marine Trades did a fine job representing boating and boater interests. For more information on the process and the implications, be sure to visit

    Indeed Ocean Management Planning is often called Ocean Zoning – but doing so is, in my opinion, reductionist and alarmist. It also does not convey the potential benefits to all (yes to boaters, boating and the boating industry), that can be had if boat folks have a seat at the table.

  4. korn

    Gee, isn’t this the same government that gave us the economic stimulus package and wants to give us universal health care?

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