New York relies on the ocean for the many benefits it provides to local communities and the broader state economy, including food, maritime commerce, recreational and educational opportunities, nutrient cycling, climate regulation, storm surge protection and coastal erosion control. Unfortunately, New York’s ocean ecosystem—defined here as encompassing all estuarine, coastal and offshore waters off New York out to the Atlantic continental shelf break—has experienced significant degradation. Human development along the coast and the unsustainable use of ocean resources (e.g., sand mining, overharvest of certain fish species, dumping, shoreline modification etc.) have effects that compromise the functioning of that ecosystem and reduces the benefits we enjoy.1 The purpose of the New York Ocean Action Plan (OAP) is to provide a framework for an integrated, adaptive approach to management that seeks to address the increased man-made stressors that threaten the ecological integrity of the ocean ecosystem, contributing to the destruction of important marine habitat, loss of marine biodiversity and impaired waterways.
In the context of our current level of use of the ocean, the OAP acknowledges the need to understand how new offshore developments (e.g., renewable energy, aquaculture) may impact the ecological integrity of the ocean ecosystem. Inter-jurisdictional offshore planning is needed, in order to minimize conflicts that can arise between diverse ocean user groups for limited space and resources. The OAP framework encourages increased coordination across all levels of government, effective communication of ocean related issues and the technology to address these challenges, and education and engagement of stakeholders to increase capacity to effectively participate in the decision-making process.
Additionally, the OAP recognizes that ocean ecosystems are rapidly being altered as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change—specifically warmer water temperatures, ocean acidification and sea-level rise—and the need to act in order to protect the continued viability of the goods and services the ocean provides.3 In short, the OAP seeks to promote restoration, conservation, resiliency, and sustainable use of New York’s ocean ecosystem and to have the best available information for New York State to make sound management decisions on ocean issues.
Through the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York has made increased funding available through the Environmental Protection Fund, providing critical State support to help implement this Plan. Nevertheless, the State cannot tackle the concerns of the ocean on its own. Collaboration with municipal, regional and federal government agencies and with other partners will be important to leverage the necessary resources to accomplish all the Plan’s multi-faceted priorities. With a significant portion of the New York Bight and ocean resources extending beyond New York’s three mile territorial jurisdiction, New York will seek federal government leadership, participation and resources as a vital component to accomplish this Plan.