Rising to meet the United States’ urgent ocean conservation challenges requires coordinated actions at regional scales.

Around the nation, groups of states and federal partners have recognized that ecosystems aren’t aligned with political boundaries — in other words, fish don’t know or care which state of the union they are in, but they do need clean water and intact habitats.

Now, following similar efforts in New England, the West Coast, the Southeast and the Gulf of Mexico, the last puzzle piece is finally in place!

The governors of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York just signed a historic agreement to work together “…to protect and conserve our ocean resources for current and future generations.”

With explicit recognition of the need for an ecosystem-based management approach, the governors are developing shared actions around four priority themes:

  • Marine habitat protection,
  • Renewable energy development,
  • Pollution control, and
  • Preparation for climate change impacts.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) was launched on June 4th at an Ocean Summit meeting in Manhattan. President Obama’s chief environmental policy adviser Nancy Sutley and senior representatives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration attended and affirmed strong federal support for the new partnership, and passionate ocean advocate Sam Waterston lent some star-power to the event and presented information on the looming threat of ocean acidification.

The Nature Conservancy has long recognized the need for regional scale ocean governance institutions and is providing data and advice to each of the nation’s five new partnerships. I was honored to attend the Ocean Summit to give a presentation (along with Sarah Chasis of NRDC) with information and advice on marine habitat protection priorities and potential actions.

The Conservancy applauds the governors’ leadership and looks forward to working collaboratively on conservation actions identified by MARCO.

(Image: What a happy ocean might look like. Credit: Jay Odell/TNC.)

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.

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