Are You an Ocean Stakeholder?

Ocean education at Sanibel Sea School

The Nature Conservancy uses science to reveal marine conservation priorities around the planet, and our latest marine ecoregional assessment is a cool package full of data and gift wrapped with new maps that will help advance coastal and marine conservation from North Carolina to Maine.

Our new work is timely because, as you may have heard, there is a new National Ocean Policy for the U.S. I think I just heard someone say, “So what, policy shmawlicy!” Actually, this is a big deal because for over 200 years our ocean has been managed as though it was a bundle of different human uses. Efforts by twenty-four federal agencies with separate ocean management mandates have not added up to the sum of their parts — and ocean health has suffered. The new policy directs the agencies to coordinate their actions to manage the U.S. ocean as nine regional ecosystems — places. By gathering diverse data and charting the locations of ecologically and socially valuable resources, we contribute sound science support and advice that resource managers need to manage ocean places.

Natural resource managers spend a lot of time listening to “stakeholders” — those who have a stake in decisions about how the ocean, a public trust resource, can be used.

The new policy emphasizes working closely with ocean stakeholders to find solutions that better align human uses with their most compatible places to reduce conflicts. Stakeholders need to help managers answer questions like: What do the people and the fish and other marine life in this place need to thrive and survive?

Some ocean stakeholders are obvious: commercial and recreational fishers, energy companies, shipping and other maritime industries, surfers and staff from environmental organizations like the Conservancy. These folks are first on the invite list when ocean resource managers seek public input as decisions are shaped and made.

But what about the other 99 percent of the nation’s citizens? Also ocean stakeholders? Yes!

You and everyone else on the blue planet is an ocean stakeholder. Here are a few reasons why:

  • If you believe in evolution, then it’s a nice practice to honor your ancestors and the place they hail from — Ocean. In any case, consider how you feel at the beach while looking out across the sea or clinging to the rails of a storm-tossed boat — is there any better example of the power that is greater than man?
  • Do you like to eat seafood? OK, most of us could survive just fine by just eating plants, but many of us savor sustainably-caught seafood. And in some places on the planet, human life without seafood may not be possible.
  • How do you feel with your toes deep in warm sand and your eyes on the deep blue ocean? We are drawn to the sea for a reason — it makes us feel very good.
  • Do you ever sit on a couch and watch TV? It’s highly likely that both came to our shores on an ocean-going container ship.
  • Do you like to breathe? The oxygen in every other breath you take is provided by ocean plankton.

Please use the comments section to let us know if you are an ocean stakeholder, and if so, why?

(Image: Ocean education at Sanibel Sea School. Image Credit: ©Bruce Neill, Sanibel Sea School/Marine)

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