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Ocean Planning Across the Borders

Canada’s Oceans Act and Oceans Strategy: Our Oceans, Our Future provide a policy and operational framework for integrated management of estuarine, coastal, and marine environments. The approach is centered on the principle of integrated management, a commitment to planning and managing human activities in a comprehensive manner while considering all measures necessary for the conservation, protection, and sustainable use of ocean resources and the shared use of ocean areas. However, there is no reference to marine spatial planning (MSP). Ocean managers in Canada use the UNESCO-IOC definition of MSP as “a public process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives that are usually specified through a political process.”

In the United States, coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) is defined by the National Ocean Council as a “a comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based, and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas.” CMSP identifies areas most suitable for various activities in order to reduce use conflicts, reduce environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses, and preserve critical ecosystem services to meet economic, environmental, security, and social objectives. In practical terms, CMSP provides a public policy process for society to better determine how the ocean, coasts, and the Great Lakes are sustainably used and protected now and for future generations.

A Common Approach for the Gulf

In spite of differences in terminology and legislation, there is a distinct similarity in the approach of the US and Canada to CMSP. In both countries CMSP is implemented at the regional level and includes coastal and ocean waters out to the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. In the Gulf of Maine Canada will implement CMSP through a Regional Oceans Plan for the Scotian Shelf-Bay of Fundy bioregion and on the US side through the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan.

In both countries, federal laws and statutes are used to coordinate decision-making with provinces, states and tribes. Regional bodies have been established on both sides of the border to support the development of CMSP, the Northeast Regional Planning Body in the US and the Regional Committee on Coastal and Oceans Management in Canada. Key components of CMSP in both countries include engaging stakeholders in the CMSP process, developing regional goals, and compiling data on human use patterns and ecological information.