Marine Spatial Planning: A More Balanced Approach to Ocean Management

February 17, 2010
Contact:

Larry Crowder, (252) 504-7637, lcrowder@duke.edu; Tim Lucas, (919) 613-8084, tdlucas@duke.edu

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. Crowder will 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.

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. Visualizing the links between coastal communities and their activities in marine zones is central to a full understanding of the ecology of ocean ecosystems, he’ll explain.

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.

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 off U.S. shores.

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.

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.

Morgan Gopnik, a PhD candidate in marine science and conservation at Duke, will moderate the symposium. Prior to pursuing her PhD, she served as director of the Ocean Studies Board at the National Academy for Sciences, senior advisor to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, and senior vice president for programs at The Ocean Conservancy. She is an independent consultant on ocean management issues.

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

Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at the Nicholas School, will also present at the AAAS meeting. He’ll review recent findings from his research, “Large Terrestrial Protected Areas and Lessons for the Marine Environment,” in a seminar at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20.

Featuring: