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Fishermen, Tourism and Maritime Leaders Tell Members of Congress: Ocean Planning Benefits New York

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2016 – New York fisherman Chris Spies of Selden, N.Y., and Paul Sieswerda, founder of Gotham Whale Watching based in Staten Island, N.Y., joined 22 marine stakeholders that met with Members of Congress on July 13 and explained how ocean planning benefits the Mid-Atlantic.

            "I enjoyed talking with the New York delegation," said Chris Spies, a recreational fisherman based on Long Island, N.Y. "These elected officials were already supportive of ocean planning. We weren't trying to push a rock up a hill. I think they're open to ocean planning because it's a common sense approach. It simply says, 'These are the current ocean users and the data portal includes their information in one easy-to-use portal. It simply tells what is already going on. No one is telling anyone you can't do something. And it's the first time that I've seen government information that takes into account recreational fishermen and where we go to fish. I firmly believe this will protect recreational fishing."

[For more info: Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body and data portal “Keep the Ocean Working”]             “The meetings went terrific,” said Paul Sieswerda, president and CEO of Gotham Whale Watching of Staten Island, N.Y. “Everyone we met was quite supportive, both Democrats and Republicans. Ocean planning is a commonsense solution to a complex problem. It brings everyone together and puts all the data in one place, the Mid-Atlantic Data Portal, so managers can make wise choices.”   

The Capitol Hill fly-in was organized by Ocean Conservancy as a way for New York marine constituents to voice their insights to their U.S. senators and representatives on how ocean planning supports jobs, fisheries, energy infrastructure and recreation.

The Mid-Atlantic ocean planning process is led by coastal managers and policymakers from all six states, two federally recognized Native American tribes, eight federal agencies and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which together function as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (RPB). The RPB was formed in 2013, and issued its ocean plan and accompanying
Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal on July 5, based on input from thousands of fishermen, maritime interests, port authorities, marine educators, scientists, tourism businesses, energy developers and environmental organizations making it the second region in the United States to unveil a formal plan. A 60-day public comment period follows until Sept. 6.

“Ocean planning represents a paradigm shift,” said Anne Merwin, director of ocean planning at Ocean Conservancy. “In the past, how we used our federal waters often relied on top-down, agency-driven approaches. By contrast, ocean planning helps level the playing field by inviting everyone to the table to identify and resolve potential conflicts early on in the decision-making process.”

Ocean planning represents a new model in cooperation and early engagement. Local fishermen, tourism interests, maritime interests, renewable energy businesses and conservationists—all have brought their data on how they do business, important fishing grounds, locations of energy infrastructure, hotspots for tourism activities like whale watching, locations of long-standing sailing regattas.

In 2010, regional planning bodies (RPBs) were authorized as part of the National Ocean Policy, a voluntary framework established by a presidential executive order to better manage the nation’s oceans and coastal resources. They include representatives from states, federally recognized Native American tribes, federal agencies and regional fishery management councils. They met with and solicited input from local stakeholders to devise regional ocean plans that take into account all marine interests to make better informed decisions, while avoiding conflicts.

The plan incorporates data on uses from coastlines to open ocean and aims to improve decision-making in federal waters (3–200 miles out, the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone). The Capitol Hill fly-in celebrates the culmination of three years’ work in the Mid-Atlantic.

“Ocean planning is all about ‘trickle-up’ policy making,” said Jeff Watters, director of government relations at the Ocean Conservancy. “When these constituents talk about their experiences on the ocean, it’s clear there is a need for policy solutions that originate with people on the ground, those who are working day to day with the issues at hand. This is the heart of ocean planning. And the fly-in allows our elected officials to hear just how vital such cooperation is to their districts.”

Ocean Conservancy thanks the following New York Members of Congress for welcoming constituents:

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)

Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY)

Rep. Kathleen M. Rice (D-NY)

Rep. Pete King (R-NY)

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY)

Rep. José E. Serrano (D-NY)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)



Select Northeast Marine Economic Facts:

Information provided by Mid-Atlantic fishery Management Council (MAFMC) and National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP).


●          Ocean Economy Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State:

            New York: $22 billion, with $18.3 billion of New York’s total ocean GDP coming from tourism and recreation

            New Jersey: $7.7 billion, with transportation and tourism & recreation contributing $7.1 billion to the combined ocean economy

            Delaware: $0.8 billion

            Maryland: $6.5 billion, with transportation being the largest contributor to the ocean GDP at $3.4 billion

            Virginia: $8.3 billion, with ship and boat building contributing 32.5% of Virginia’s ocean GDP

●         Ports & Shipping: The U.S. seaport network unloads $3.8 billion in goods each day, and the Mid-Atlantic ports are a major contributor. In 2014, ports in Mid-Atlantic States (including D.C. and Penn.) imported cargo worth $265 billion and exported cargo worth $112 billion (NOEP 2015). In 2014, the Port of New York and New Jersey handled 3.3 million cargo containers, maintaining its position as the busiest on the East Coast with nearly 30 percent of the total market share.

●          Commercial Fishing: In 2012 (the most recent data available), commercial fishermen in the region landed 751 million pounds of seafood with a value of approximately $600 million, and the Mid-Atlantic seafood industry generated $18 billion in sales. In addition, commercial fisheries have many indirect positive impacts on the surrounding community and the supporting industries such as restaurants and ice houses (MAFMC). Domestic fisheries contribute about 2.5 billion to the Mid-Atlantic region’s economy (MAFMC).

            Landings by State:

            New York: $39.3 million. Over 22 percent from squid harvest.

            New Jersey: $187.7 million. Over 59 percent landed value from sea scallops.

            Delaware: $7.9 million. Over 80 percent of landed weight and 77 percent of landed value from blue crabs.

            Maryland: $77.9 million. Over 76 percent of landed value from blue crabs.

            Virginia: $176 million. Sea scallops accounted for 31 percent of landed value.

●          Recreational Fishing: Recreational fishing is a popular pastime and a significant economic driver in the region. Between 2003 and 2012, an average of 2.8 million anglers fished in the Mid-Atlantic region annually. In 2009, approximately 42,000 people were employed in the recreational fishing industry, with an income impact of nearly $3 billion (MAFMC). Recreational fishing also stimulates other coastal industries by attracting tourists to the coast. Non-residents spent a total of $211 million on fishing trips and related expenses in 2012, including private boat charters.

●          Tourism & Non-Consumptive Recreation: Non-consumptive recreation refers to activities such as beach going, whale watching, photography, surfing, scuba diving, and boating, in which participants do not remove resources from the ocean or coast. Coastal tourism and recreational economies are dependent on the environment, natural resources, and public perception of the area. In 2012, the tourism and recreation sector of Mid-Atlantic counties supported more than half a million jobs and produced $27.4 billion in GDP. This sector’s employment increased by more than 65,000 jobs since 2005 and is projected to grow with a strengthening economy.

●          Aquaculture: While there is no offshore aquaculture conducted in federal waters of the Mid-Atlantic, aquaculture has a long history in the states and Tribal Nations of the region. Virginia has leased shellfish beds since the 1800s. Today, aquaculture in the Mid-Atlantic primarily focuses on shellfish (oysters and clams) predominantly in bays and estuaries. The Shinnecock, Pamunkey and Seneca tribes operate shellfish and finfish hatcheries to seed or stock natural populations. The NOAA Aquaculture Program reports that U.S. marine aquaculture production is now growing steadily about 8 percent per year (Draft Strategic Plan 2015).

●          National Security and Military Use: The Mid-Atlantic hosts the world’s largest naval base (Norfolk, Va.), as well as numerous other military installations and training grounds. The Hampton Roads area of Virginia is home to one of the largest concentration of military bases and facilities in the world. Among them are Langley Air Force Base and the Allied Command Transformation, which is the only major military command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on U.S. soil. Operationally, 71 ships were home ported and 38 aircraft squadrons were based in Hampton Roads in 2012. Nearby, on Chincoteague Island, Va., the National Aeronautics and Space Administration operates the Wallops Island Flight Facility for civilian and strategic space programs.

●          Offshore Renewable Energy: In federal waters, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has the authority to issue leases, easements, and rights-of-way on the outer continental shelf for the purpose of renewable energy development. In the Mid-Atlantic, BOEM has leased areas for commercial development off the shores of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia and is in the process of leasing an area offshore of New York.

●          Offshore Sand Management: One common management response to coastal erosion is to replace lost sand with sand mined from the outer continental shelf. Large areas of sand ridges and troughs characterize the Mid-Atlantic continental shelf with two hundred and forty-five sand ridges identified from Long Island to North Carolina. The Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal has identified a need for more geospatial data on sand, gravel and cobble mining, including areas where resources are actively mined from the seafloor and potential source areas. Currently, detailed information is available for Maryland only, and work continues to develop a regional-scale map using state and federal information. Research is also needed on the impacts of sand movement and mining to habitats and wildlife.


Ocean Conservancy is working with you to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook,Twitter or Instagram.



Rachael Bishop

Senior Manager, Communications

Ocean Conservancy

1300 19th Street NW, 8th Floor

Washington, DC 20036

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​In a multi- state effort, sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, Gotham Whale participated in a two -day "fly-in" to lobby for support of Ocean Planning.  Read more on this effort to ensure wise choices and sustainable use of our Mid-Atlantic waters in this press release issued by OC>

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Gotham Whale goes to Washington....!