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Marine spatial planning: A more balanced approach to ocean management

DURHAM, N.C. The old balkanized approach to ocean management, in which different resources and activities are governed by different laws and administered by different agencies, has failed to protect ocean ecosystems or reduce conflicts between ocean users, a panel of international scientists says, and should be replaced with a more balanced approach using marine spatial planning.

The panel, organized by scientists from Duke University, will make its case at a symposium at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at this year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) in San Diego.

Marine spatial planning begins with the creation of detailed, comprehensive maps of a marine area, identifying where and how it is used by humans and what natural resources and habitats exist within it.

Coastal communities can then use this information to set economic, environmental and social goals for that area, and allocate space within it for different uses, including fishing, shipping, recreation, conservation, oil and gas development, or renewable energy production.

"By building comprehensive maps and bringing people together to plan the future of an ocean space, we can minimize conflicts and look for ways to maximize benefits," says Larry Crowder, director of the Duke Center for Marine Conservation. "The result is a fairer and more effective approach to how our oceans are used ensuring that diverse human uses are supported while healthy marine ecosystems are maintained for all our benefit."

The use of marine spatial planning has gained momentum nationwide in recent years; there are now active programs in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Oregon.

In June 2009, President Obama directed 22 U.S. federal agencies with ocean-related programs to develop "a framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning" that addresses conservation, economic activities, user conflicts and sustainable use of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. A draft of the framework was released in December. That month, Scientific American magazine chose marine spatial planning as one of "20 World Changing Ideas."

The AAAS meeting is the largest general science conference of the year. Being invited to present or moderate a symposium at AAAS is widely viewed as a measure of a researcher's high stature in his or her field.

The AAAS symposium on marine spatial planning will include presentations by:

  • Larry Crowder, Stephen Toth Professor of Marine Biology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. He'll discuss the science and management of coupled social-ecological systems,and explain why effective ocean management requires us to consider all elements of an ecosystem its physical, biological, chemical and geological attributes, as well as the composition and location of human communities that rely on it for livelihoods or essential services. Coupled social-ecological systems provide a useful and relatively new framework for incorporating these disparate elements into decision-making.

  • Kevin St. Martin, associate professor of geography at Rutgers University. St. Martin will discuss innovative new techniques he's developing to map the spatial impacts of ocean users. Understanding the links between coastal communities and their activities in specific marine zones is central to a full understanding of the ecology of ocean ecosystems, he will explain. Being able to visualize these linkages is essential if we want to incorporate human factors into marine spatial planning.

  • Fanny Douvere, coordinator of the World Heritage Marine Programme at UNESCO's World Heritage Centre in France. She will present evidence illustrating that a regional, future-oriented approach is central to the success of marine spatial planning. She'll review efforts now under way to incorporate good practices for marine spatial planning into ocean management practices and policies at the national and regional levels.

  • Mary Turnipseed, a PhD student in ecology at Duke. She'll discuss how an old legal concept, the public trust doctrine, can gain new use as a tool for achieving sustainable ocean governance. The doctrine identifies governments as trustees of certain natural resources on citizens' behalf. Historically, it's enabled ecosystem protection at the state level, but hasn't yet been extended to natural resources strictly under federal jurisdiction, such as those in ocean waters from three to 200 nautical miles from U.S. shores. She will explore arguments for including federal public trust duties in a new national ocean policy.

  • Jo Foden, a PhD candidate at the University of East Anglia, U.K. Foden will summarize recent progress in Europe toward monitoring and assessing how marine spatial planning supports national and regional ocean management goals. She will review current assessment methods being used at local, national, international and global scales, and show how more explicit goals, greater consistency in terminology and a clearer approach to assessment could help consolidate these efforts and simplify future applications.

  • Andrew Rosenberg, senior vice president for science and knowledge at Conservation International. He will describe the use of marine spatial planning in Massachusetts and how a diverse coalition of ocean stakeholders has provided critical, ongoing support for it. A professor at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space at the University of New Hampshire, he will relate the Massachusetts initiative to national efforts to develop a framework for marine spatial planning through the President's Ocean Policy Taskforce.

Morgan Gopnik, currently a PhD candidate in marine science and conservation at Duke, will moderate the symposium. She served for seven years as director of the Ocean Studies Board at the National Academy for Sciences, before being appointed senior advisor to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, where she oversaw the writing of the commission's final report to Congress and the White House. She subsequently served as senior vice president for programs at The Ocean Conservancy. In addition to pursing a PhD at Duke, Gopnik is an independent consultant on ocean management issues to foundations, association and nonprofit organizations.

Crowder will also make a second AAAS presentation, an overview of "Next Steps on Marine Spatial Planning," in a symposium at 1:30 p.m., Feb. 21.


Contact: Tim Lucas
Duke University

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