Marine Spatial Planning: Its time has come

Basically, Marine Spatial Planning gathers together all the industries, indigenous groups, governments, NGOs, local communities and other oceans interests to develop a plan for the future use and conservation of any given ocean space. It’s essential to do as resources dwindle in the sea and more users conflict with each other on (or in) the water.
Word leaked out early Monday that this announcement was going to happen yesterday and I spent the morning checking in with the newly formed Ocean Policy Task Force on the White House website for the official word.  Reading the press release I was amazed at the wide range of backing this plan was getting from different departments in the U.S. government: the Office of Science and Technology, Secretary of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and the Navy! They really mean business.
WWF-Canada sent out a press release today congratulating the U.S. for its forward-looking approach and calling for something similar here in Canada. This doesn’t come out of the blue for us because we’ve been working recently in the hallways of parliament in Ottawa on this issue. WWF held a gathering in Ottawa that we called the “Oceans Summit on Marine Spatial Planning.” Minister Shea opened the event which was attended by NGOs, business and government from across the country. Our keynote speaker was from NOAA in the U.S. and she outlined the upcoming plan from the ocean task force. Our goal was to use the U.S. initiative to move things in Canada in the same direction. Some of the most encouraging conversations were led by our business partners, NaiKun Wind Energy and Area A Crab Fisherman’s Association. They have a very compelling story to tell on the west coast about how their industries are planning together to share the oceans space for the benefit of both their industries. It’s a great example of marine planning in action and how it’s working here in Canada.

Round Island - Considered a sanctuary for Pacific walruses Alaska, United States of America (c) Kevin Schafer/WWF-Canon
Round Island – Considered a sanctuary for Pacific walruses Alaska, United States of America (c) Kevin Schafer/WWF-Canon

So what does this all mean for Canada? We have a leader now in the U.S. on marine planning and in Canada we have… an ongoing conversation. It’s not that simplistic in Canada, of course. The Oceans Act mandates DFO to implement marine planning and there has been progress in different regions in different ways. What we don’t have is a comprehensive approach similar to the U.S. on Marine Spatial Planning. They’ve taken a coordinated approach to federal waters to deal with conservation, conflicts, science and making decisions that will benefit local economies and ensure sustainability.  Let’s not miss this wave Canada!