Kicking off 2015

World's ocean looking at how much impact humans have caused Halpern 2008
Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning workshop
How Marine Planning Can Help Save The Ocean

Six years ago I was teaching sailing in Narragansett Bay and I remember hearing sailors from all over Rhode Island complaining about a “new guy” who might be making his presence known to everyone who used the bay for professional or recreational uses.

His name was “Liquefied Natural Gas” and although he may have been odorless, his potential risk for exploding meant that all other boats would have to get off the bay when his ship came through. Which might not be a big deal in some places, but this is Newport: the sailing capital of the world. 

Long story short: It’s a big deal to tell boaters when they can’t boat.

The proposal to put an LNG facility in Narragansett Bay eventually faltered and failed but it’s relevant because all around the country there’s a variety of different projects being considered that could impact the waters recreational sailors and boaters use everyday. 

As “travelers by water”, it’s our duty to keep these waters clean and healthy for generations to come. And despite the fact that most boaters act independently of each other, the group as a whole deserves a seat at the planning table to voice our opinions and concerns about further development.

Which is why last week I decided to start 2015 off by attending a 4-day workshop on Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning offered by Battelle Memorial Institute and the Duke Environmental Leadership Program. Other attendees included representatives from numerous state agencies and other non-profits who are similarly invested in this topic.

Sailors for the Sea is working to create better data that fully describe where boaters are using their local waters. For nearly a decade, regattas have been signing up under the Clean Regattas program with pieces of information that need to be accounted for in the regional decision making process. In 2012, a survey authored by SeaPlan estimated that in the area between Maine and New York, recreational boaters accounted for almost 27,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in economic activity every year! An impact to recreational boating in this area could have a significant economic impact.

We’ve also spent time trying to inform and engage boaters about topics that might impact their waters.  It’s been reported that over 41% of the ocean is strongly being affected by human beings by “multiple drivers”. The term “multiple drivers” is important because it means that no longer is a fishing ground just a fishing ground. It also functions as a shipping channel or an important location for species migration. Recreational boaters need to know, or at least be aware, that the waters that they rely upon are also being relied upon by other people with different motives.

Keeping a pulse on who uses what part of the ocean (and how) is important knowledge to have as we adaptively learn to best conserve our ocean.

To learn check out our Ocean Watch article Smart Ocean Planning by Dr. Sandra Whitehouse.

And don’t forget to register your 2015 Clean Regatta, to protect your waters and help gather data for recreational boaters!

- Tyson Bottenus, Sustainability Director