To protect US waters, think local

BROWN (US) — While a one-size-fits-all solution to protecting the nation’s waters doesn’t exist, local individual practices in combination could create an effective national ocean-management policy.

The question of planning uses for America’s coastal waters has gained importance since President Barack Obama formed the National Ocean Council in July 2010 and charged it with developing an ecosystem based stewardship policy for the nation’s oceans, coastal waters, and the Great Lakes.

Recommendations from a team of natural and social scientists for a national marine protection effort is reported in the journal Conservation Letters.

“Every project is engaged in some new and effective ecosystem-based practices, but none of them is doing them all,” says Leila Sievanen, postdoctoral researcher in environmental studies at Brown University and the paper’s lead author. “Together, though, they are demonstrating what could work on the national level.”

The executive order stipulates “for the first time a comprehensive, integrated national policy for the stewardship of the ocean, our coasts and Great Lakes, which sets our nation on a path toward comprehensive planning for the preservation and sustainable uses of these bodies of water.”

The National Ocean Council is expected to release a series of draft strategic action plans this summer.

The paper reports several practices that have been successful in the field. Including these elements in ocean planning will help bridge the gap between government regulations and grassroots efforts.

“Many of the best practices we’ve observed come from local groups,” says Heather Leslie, assistant professor of environmental studies and biology at Brown. “We expect that as the National Ocean Policy moves forward, these local efforts will continue to serve as a model for how to more proactively manage America’s oceans.”

Researchers from Duke University, the University of Michigan, and Oregon State University contributed to the study, that was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

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