Statement from The Nature Conservancy on Improved Ocean Planning Announcement

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The following is a statement from Sally Yozell, Director of Marine Conservation, East Coast at The Nature Conservancy, on today's announcement by the Obama Administration to establish an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force.

The following is a statement from Sally Yozell, Director of Marine Conservation, East Coast at The Nature Conservancy, on today's announcement by the Obama Administration to establish an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force:

"The Nature Conservancy applauds today's announcement from the Obama Administration to establish an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force that will lead an effort to better protect the health of our oceans with a focus on more efficient ocean planning. This is a critical step in ensuring that as demands on our oceans continue to grow, all stakeholders in the ocean - from industry and energy to conservation and recreation - have a seat at the table. This coordinated process increases transparency and accountability as decision-makers come together to proactively discuss and plan for how to use our oceans' resources in a sustainable way.

We have figured out how to balance residential, industrial and recreational uses on land, but today's announcement supports a vision that we can figure out a way to accomplish this in the ocean as well. A more coordinated approach will help bring together ocean users to proactively discuss the best ways for everyone to benefit from our oceans, economically and environmentally.

Like urban sprawl on land, the demand for space in our oceans and on our coasts is growing rapidly as renewable energy, commercial fishing, recreation, offshore drilling and shipping are all competing for space, creating ocean and coastal sprawl. These uses are important to our economy and quality of life, but competition for space is creating conflicts among users. Today, many separate decisions and plans governing ocean users exist, but we need a streamlined and coordinated process for managing our oceans to achieve ecological, environmental and social goals.

Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a process that brings together diverse users of the ocean to make informed and coordinated decisions about how to use marine resources. Instead of multiple conversations and plans, marine spatial planning uses mapping and other tools to create a more comprehensive picture of a marine area. This inclusive picture enables ocean users to proactively identify and discuss where conflicts could occur and how benefits could be maximized. The intended result of marine spatial planning is a more coordinated approach to how our oceans are used - ensuring that diverse human uses are met while healthy marine ecosystems are maintained for the populations who depend on them.

The Nature Conservancy is using marine spatial planning to ensure that the health of marine ecosystems is considered as ocean use increases. This week, the Conservancy conducted workshops in Rhode Island and Delaware to present the results of a two-year effort to document and map the competing uses of our oceans - renewable energy, commercial fishing, recreation, offshore drilling and shipping and introduce the concept of marine spatial planning to a variety of regional stakeholders."

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at http://www.nature.org.

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Cristina Mestre
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