Friday, September 2, 2016

Mapping Marine Life Pros & Cons

On August 17, Clean Ocean Action traveled down to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, to participate in a workshop held by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) and its Portal Team. The workshop updated a select group of government consultants and environmental non-government organizations  (NGO) on the status and development of marine life and habitat data in support of the Mid Atlantic Regional Planning Body’s (Mid-A RPB) Ocean Action Plan. The Mid Atlantic Ocean Plan calls “Ecologically Rich Areas” (ERA).

Portal Team seeks to take the thousands of marine ecosystem data points collected throughout the years by marine mammal observers, trawl surveys, scientific expeditions, satellite and remote sensing, and other sources, and turn them into visual “heat maps” in order to understand the distribution and movement of fish, mammal, and bird species, areas of high plankton counts, and other information. These visual products are excellent tools for better understanding of our ocean ecosystem and identifying areas where more research is needed. However, the end purpose of this visual mapping exercise is not just to increase understanding and the availability of research, but to support the identification of what the

COA supports MARCO’s and the Mid-A RPB’s commitment to obtaining and analyzing the best available marine science and data. However, we have repeatedly emphasized the limitations and gaps of the data collection, and the interconnectedness of the ocean ecosystem. COA’s commitment has always been the protection and restoration of the entire ocean, and not the piecemeal protection of select areas. COA expressed its concerns about the unintended consequences of pursuing the identification of ERAs, including the creation of “winners and losers” in our ocean, and critical decisions and environmental review of projects based on incomplete data. COA is continuing to advocate for ocean-wide protection and will be submitting comments on the Mid-Atlantic RPB’s plan. Members of the public are encouraged to provide comments to the MidA RPB by September 6 via email: or by writing to:

Robert LaBelle, Federal Co-Lead for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
45600 Woodland Road
Sterling, VA 20166

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