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Science, Health, Tech

Regional Atlantic plan emphasizes collaboration

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Arlo Hemphill
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Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean
Joe Attangan (right) and Michael Jones (left) speak during the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body open house Wednesday.

A regional planning body wants to bring groups together to promote a healthy ocean ecosystem.

Established in 2014 to coordinate a joint ocean action plan, the mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body is unique in that federal agencies, state officials, tribes and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council are all coming together with a common goal. They met for a public comment period in Lewes on Wednesday.

The plan is the culmination of the group’s efforts to address challenges to ocean management, promote a healthy ocean ecosystem and use the ocean in a sustainable manner. It’s the first collaborative ocean action plan for the mid-Atlantic region.

“The strong focus of this plan needs to be the collaboration of all the federal agencies, so we can work together and make better decisions at a higher level so we can all use our oceans together,” said Michael Jones, the director of environmental planning and conservation EV2 with navy region mid-Atlantic.

Stakeholders, fisheries groups and states need to work together and make better decisions at a higher level so everyone can use the ocean together, Jones said.

John Kennedy, the director of the mid-Atlantic gateway office for the US Maritime Administration, and part of the regional planning body, said he feels the same way.

“And so we’re trying to take a holistic view of really more of how the ocean actually functions in reality and then we’d like to monitor our progress and kind of return to a regular planning cycle in order to inform the decision-making, because we’re seeing so many changes,” Kennedy said. “In my area we’re seeing the ships get larger and larger, we’re seeing sand management, aquaculture, fishing…”

One aspect of planning is national security. Joe Attangan is a physical scientist with the US fleet forces command. He says national security is an important aspect of planning because the Atlantic coast is considered a primary training ground for the military.

“What we want to do in the planning process is we want national security concerns addressed early in the planning process so that we’re not coming in towards the end of the project planning process to say ‘hey look this has an impact in national security’,” Attangan said. “So we want issued addressed up front.”

Attangan said the US fleet forces command will share where their operations areas are. That way, other ocean management groups don’t interfere with military activity.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan is in its public comment period. Members of the public can provide input through Sept. 6.