In December 2009, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) issued the Commonwealth’s first-ever Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan. The release of the plan was the culmination of an intensive planning process launched with the signing of the Oceans Act in May 2008. The Oceans Act (Appendix 1) gave the EEA Secretary formal oversight, coordination, and planning authority for the Commonwealth’s ocean waters and ocean-based development. It also required EEA to develop an integrated ocean management plan that: defined the Commonwealth’s goals, siting priorities, and standards for ensuring effective stewardship of ocean waters and resources held in trust for the benefit of the public; reflected the importance of these waters to the Commonwealth ’s citizens who derive livelihoods and recreational benefits from fishing; valued biodiversity and ecosystem health; identified and protected special, sensitive, or unique estuarine and marine life and habitats; and identified appropriate locations and performance standards for activities, uses, and facilities allowed by the Ocean Sanctuaries Act [M.G.L. c. 132A §12-18].
The development of the 2009 Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, which was led by EEA’s Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), included rigorous efforts to acquire, develop, and synthesize the best available data and science and to seek a high level of peer review and evaluation of this information. Throughout the process, EEA also carried out an extensive public and stakeholder participation program, including public workshops, meetings with stakeholders, and formal public hearings and comment periods. Members of the state’s Ocean Advisory Commission and Ocean Science Advisory Council also provided important and valuable advice, guidance, and contributions to the planning process and the final plan. The development of the ocean plan underscored the critical importance and value of marine ecosystems and ocean-based commerce, trade, and economies in Massachusetts and reinforced the Commonwealth’s responsibility to manage uses in a manner that preserves and enhances the integrity and sustainability of ocean ecosystems and resources and maintains the benefits held in trust for the public.
The Commonwealth’s ocean plan is intended to be an evolving document - revisited and revised periodically to adapt as better information and science are developed, policy goals evolve, and experience in applying the management and administrative framework is gained. The Oceans Act and the implementing regulations of the ocean plan (301 CMR 28.00, Appendix 2) require that the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, its Baseline Assessment, and the enforceable provisions of relevant statutes and regulations be reviewed at least once every five years.
This document - the 2015 Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan (hereafter referred to as the 2015 ocean plan) - presents the first formal amendment of the original ocean plan released in 2009. With its promulgation on January 6, 2015, the 2015 ocean plan serves as the current official version of the state’s ocean plan, superseding the 2009 plan. This chapter provides an overview of the document, describes the plan review and update process, and summarizes the revisions made to the 2009 ocean plan. While this chapter generally references the maps in the ocean plan, specific information on management areas and maps is provided in Chapter 2, and the maps themselves are placed at the end of the document for production purposes. All of the maps in the ocean plan are also available on CZM’s publicly accessible online data and mapping system, the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS), at http://maps.massgis.state.ma.us/map_ol/mass_ocean_plan.php.
Overview of the Document
The 2015 ocean plan consists of two volumes:
- Volume 1: Management and Administration - Following this introductory chapter, Chapter 2 provides the Commonwealth’s updated and amended approach for integrated ocean management, identifying and providing accompanying maps for the broad management areas and the special, sensitive, or unique habitat and water-dependent uses delineated for protection. It also presents the siting and management standards for activities and projects subject to the ocean plan. Chapter 3 highlights progress in plan implementation since 2009 and describes key administrative elements, the review and revision process, continued mechanisms for input and engagement with experts and stakeholders, and an approach for monitoring and evaluating plan implementation.
- Volume 2: Baseline Assessment Five-Year Update and Science Framework - The Oceans Act mandated a Baseline Assessment as part of the ocean plan and required a review and update of this Baseline Assessment at least every five years. The 2009 Baseline Assessment constituted an extensive cataloguing of the current state of knowledge regarding human uses, natural resources, and other ecosystem components of Massachusetts ocean waters. The Baseline Assessment Five-Year Update: Report on Changes and Trends since 2009 is presented in Volume 2 and reports on the current condition, status, and trends in Massachusetts marine waters. Volume 2 also contains the Science Framework, which identifies updated science and data priorities and strategies that will support the continued evolution of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan.