To the editor:
This is an open letter I have written to Betsy Nicholson of NOAA and co-leader of the Regional Planning Body for ocean planning.
Dear Betsy: I am writing to report briefly on a public forum on ocean planning held in Gloucester on July 24. I am aware that a number of citizens have also submitted individual comments by the July 26th deadline.
The following basic concerns have been made about the work of the RPB to date:
The RPB has not been clear about likely outcomes of its work — to what ends are mapping exercises, greater agency coordination, and compatibility analysis being put? The goals sound admirable, but are vague and without practical content. Where is this all headed? What is the intended or likely future of the ocean, based on this ocean planning process?
The basis for decisions about permits for new uses of the ocean have not been explained – will “tradeoff analysis” and ocean maps be tools just to introduce a wide range of potentially problematic new uses in the ocean, without precautionary and balanced consideration of impacts on the ocean ecosystem, traditional uses, and the well-being of coastal communities and the public?
Will “maximization of profits” and “privatization” of the ocean be the inevitable result of this process? Simplistic applications of resource economics methodologies on land have supported industrial-scale extraction, corporate commodification, income inequality, species loss, and pollution. Is this the likely path forward for the ocean as well?
Public participation has been inadequate. It is inaccurate to suggest that extensive environment non-government organization (ENGO) and user group participation has represented genuine deliberative and democratic input in the process. What will be done going forward to organize a genuine public education and engagement process?
Affirmatively, the community of Gloucester has articulated these themes:
Establish “healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems” as the overarching goal of the planning framework; nature must be protected if it is to provide social, cultural, spiritual and economic benefits to future generations. Establish strong standards and guidelines for traditional and new uses that will assure the protection of the ocean. Emphasize research to understand threats to ocean health, clean-up projects, adaptive management, and clean methods of resource harvesting.
Assert the primacy of the provision of healthy food from the ocean biomass and protect and promote the traditional commercial fishing industry.
Explore different models of managing and utilizing the natural resources of the ocean, in particular those that rest in nature’s capacity to generate multiple renewable resources and benefits, including restoration of ocean health.
Explore related models of governance and ownership.
Organize a genuine public process that informs and engages citizens and communities whose voices have not yet been heard
Gloucester looks forward to continued conversations with the RPB. Thank you for your review of this update.
VALERIE I. NELSON