By Alan Lovewell – WCGA Sea Grant Fellow
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be invited to take meeting notes for two focus group meetings in Oakland at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center lead by Jenna Borberg and Carrie Pomeroy from Oregon and California Sea Grant respectively. These focus groups were assembled to assess NOAA’s knowledge, capacity and needs for involving stakeholders in the regional Coastal Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) process and contribute to developing a framework for improving stakeholder involvement. This project will also help inform NOAA’s coordination and collaboration on CMSP with partners (e.g., federal and state agencies, regional and local entities, and tribes).
As a note taker and observer at two of these meetings I was anxious to hear an update on CMSP, what was happening at the National level, and what the various corners of NOAA think about its utility, development, and challenges. And more than anything I was interested in hearing first hand how participants are currently succeeding or struggling to accomplish their management objectives and goals.
This was the first of 9 focus group meetings that are being held in Oregon, California, and Washington. Participants from NOAA’s extended family (defined as entities that rely on NOAA for base funding) included:
- NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service(NMFS), National Weather Service (NWS), Oceanic Atmospheric Research(OAR)
- NOAA Coastal Services Center
- National Estuarine Research Reserve System
- National Marine Sanctuaries
- California, University of Southern California, Oregon, and Washington Sea Grant Programs
- Integrated Ocean Observing System
- Cooperative/Joint Institutes
- Pacific Fishery Management Council (employees)
- State Coastal Zone Management agencies
The diversity of representation is intended to provide a range of feedback on the issues marine resource managers are currently addressing including: who and how they define their stakeholders and partners; how they effectively engage and communicate with stakeholders; and how they communicate and coordinate within the NOAA extended family.
Principal investigators for this study are: Dr. Stephen Brandt, Director, Oregon Sea Grant; and Dr. John Stein, Director, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, co-lead for NOAA’s Western Regional Collaboration Team, and member of the West Coast Governors Alliance (WCGA) Executive Committee and Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) Work Group. The information gathered from these focus groups will inform the next phase of the study, which includes a survey of the larger West Coast NOAA workforce and extended family.
Here are a few of my key takeaway points from these conversations:
- Meaningful engagement with stakeholders is essential to the success of most management processes or actions.
- In one form or another, we are all stakeholders dependent on the health of our oceans. The more we connect and value the ecosystem and the resources it provides us, the more we’ll feel invested in the oceans long-term health.
- Stakeholders and partners often vary between agencies, projects, and issues.
- The success and failure of CMSP depends on everyone’s commitment to welcome all perspectives at the table to have discussions and talk about management options.
- The status and progress of CMSP and why we should manage our waters as a public trust, should be communicated within and outside of NOAA on a regular basis.
I’m sure a lot of individuals, myself included, will be looking forward to project outcomes. The WCGA IEA Workgroup is one team within the WCGA that will find this information useful as we continue planning our regional scoping strategy for the US West Coast.