Over the past decade in the United States, there has been growing interest among governmental, academic, environmental, and resource-user communities in managing the ocean in a more comprehensive and ecosystem-based manner. Proposals for new uses of ocean resources and space—most notably from the energy sector—have left resource managers grappling with how to protect our increasingly compromised ocean ecosystems while allowing for sustainable use. Debate over this issue has been heated in New England where proposals for offshore, liquefied natural gas terminals, sand and gravel mining, desalination plants, gas pipelines, and wind and tidal energy facilities have raised concerns among local, state, and federal agencies and the general public about how to manage the diversity of uses and minimise the negative impacts of this intensified development pressure on the marine environment. In response, the region has embraced marine spatial planning as a tool to optimise use and advance ocean health; maximizing what the ocean has to offer in the way of food, transportation, recreation, jobs, and energy, while ensuring protection of the ecosystem. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have completed marine spatial plans (known locally as ‘ocean plans’) for their state ocean waters. More recently, a Northeast Regional Ocean Plan was completed in 2016 to guide management of state and federal ocean waters from Maine to Connecticut. Intensive planning for offshore wind energy development is sparking new scientific research, data collection, and stakeholder collaboration that aims both to advance renewable energy development and to ensure ecosystem protection. In this case study, we focus on marine spatial planning in New England and collaboration between wind energy developers and environmental organisations to advance offshore wind development and effective protection of North Atlantic right whales—one of the world’s most endangered species of marine mammals.
This is a book chapter in Offshore Energy and Marine Spatial Planning.