I just finished reading through the National Ocean Council’s (NOC) newly released National Ocean Policy (NOP) Implementation Plan. The NOP Implementation Plan provides a road-map for how federal agencies will implement President Obama’s 2010 Nation Ocean Policy from Executive Order 13547 and focuses on nine priority areas:
- Ecosystem-Based Management
- Inform Decisions and Improve Understanding
- Observations, Mapping, and Infrastructure
- Coordinate and Support
- Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration
- Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
- Water Quality and Sustainable Practices on Land
- Changing Conditions in the Arctic
- Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning
The West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health is the in the process of assembling their comments on the Implementation Plan, and I’m excited to be helping to write these comments. It’s gratifying to see that many of our comments on the draft Strategic Action Plan outlines released in June 2011 were taken into consideration and incorporated. For example, in the original Strategic Action Plan for the priority Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration in Action 6: reduce the threat of marine invasive species, the only invasive species to be considered was the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish. To be sure, lionfish have invaded and become established along the Southeast United States and the Caribbean, and these fish are a huge problem in this area. However, each region of the United States has its own invasive species problems, and the WCGA commented that if the NOC was going to choose focal species, they should choose one for each of the nine regions. Here on the West Coast, the WCGA has chosen to focus on invasive Spartina, a cordgrass that has invaded numerous large estuaries on the West Coast, but we acknowledge that there are other invasive species on our coasts as well. Now, in the NOP Implementation Plan, the Action to ‘locate, control, and, where possible, eradicate invasive species populations’ is written to include all regions of the United States rather than focusing solely on the invasive lionfish in the Southeast.
I think that the the NOP has done a great job addressing comments they received from the WCGA and other respondents but, there is still room for improvement. I’m glad that the NOC incorporated our comments to not focus on a single invasive species. However, it might be useful for this specific action to think about preventing introductions as well as controlling them. The WCGA would like the NOC to consider efforts to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species, such as by supporting ballast water treatments and addressing hull fouling and the trade of live organisms (a largely unmanaged vector). No one knows the exact source of the lionfish invasion, but the data suggest that the it may have been introduced through the aquarium trade. Putting some energy into outreach and education could save a lot of time, money, and effort in the long run. It’s a lot easier and much less costly to prevent introductions than to clean up the mess once the invasion has been established.
As the WCGA is preparing its own comments on the NOP Implementation Plan, you can also share your perspective with the National Ocean Council. When the Strategic Action Plan outline came out in June 2011, the NOC conducted listening sessions throughout all the regions of the United States. I attended the listening session in San Francisco and had the opportunity to hear public comments regarding two priority areas— Ecosystem-Based Management and Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning. It seems to me that the NOC takes comments from the public seriously. During the Ecosystem-Based Management session, I heard more than one person comment that they wanted the Implementation Plan to reflect the definition of Ecosystem-Based Management supported through a consensus statement signed by over 200 highly regarded academic scientists. The new Implementation Draft now reflects that definition and reads:
EBM is as an integrated approach to resource management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans and that the goal of EBM is to maintain an ecosystem in a healthy, productive, and resilient condition so that it can provide the services humans want and need.
McLeod et al. 2005
The NOC is asking for public comments on the Implementation Plan by midnight February 27th. You can read the Implementation Plan here. The NOC has a web-based platform where you can type your comments in directly or even upload attachments if your comments are lengthy.
Specifically, the NOC is interested to hear your comments on:
- Does the draft Implementation Plan reflect actions you see are needed to address the nine priorities for the ocean, coasts, and the Great Lakes?
- What is the most effective way to measure outcomes and to detect whether a particular action in the Implementation Plan has achieved its intended outcome? Would a report card format be useful?
So go read the plans and do your part to help shape the future of our coasts and oceans.