The Northeast Regional Planning Body, a group with representatives from six New England states, six federally recognized tribes, nine federal agencies and the New England Fishery Management Council, on Dec. 7 announced completion and certification of its groundbreaking Northeast Ocean Plan.

“The RPB is proud that the first plan of this kind in the nation has been completed,” said Betsy Nicholson, federal co-lead for the RPB and North regional director of the Office for Coastal Management at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The culmination of many years of study, public outreach and collaboration, the plan "will guide federal agency actions in the future to achieve the region’s goals for the ocean and its resources,” she said.

Formed in 2012, pursuant to an executive order from President Barack Obama, the RPB over the last four years has worked with stakeholders, elicited public comments in meetings across the region, and facilitated collaboration among many different stakeholders to address the plan's three goals: a healthy ocean and coastal ecosystem, effective decision-making, and compatibility among past, current, and future uses.

The plan commits to using better regional ocean information to guide and inform decisions made under existing authorities. This, coupled with best practices for enhanced coordination and public engagement, enables RPB agencies to identify potential conflicts between ocean uses and inform mitigation of negative impacts on marine life and habitat.

A number of those involved in the process commented on the plan.

“States have appreciated the opportunity to join our federal partners in discussions about our shared responsibilities for stewardship of the ocean,” said Grover Fugate, state co-lead for the RPB and director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.

Incoming state co-lead, Ted Diers, division chief for New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ Watershed Management Bureau, added, "The state's perspectives are well-represented by this plan. In fact, we see this plan as a key factor in leveling the playing field so that everyone with an interest in offshore activities has the same access to good data and the decision-making process."

Richard Getchell, tribal co-lead for the RPB, said the plan "sets the table for more informed, inclusive and transparent decisions about the ocean and our future, which depends upon its good health.”

Mel Coté, EPA Region 1 Surface Water Branch chief, said the agency "sees great value in this plan and its focus on healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems."

Mark Alexander, New England Fishery Management Council representative to the RPB and supervising fisheries biologist at Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the council — part of the plan's development process since its start — is "looking forward to continuing this partnership in the months and years to come.”

Non-government ocean stakeholders also played critical roles in developing the plan. Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, which represents 1,800 fishermen throughout New England, acknowledged the value of the effort and engagement that went into the plan's development and said, "The commitments and actions in the plan represent a new way of doing business for ocean management, and we look forward to its implementation.”

New Bedford Port Director Ed Anthes-Washburn said, “New England’s ports serve as critical hubs for our nation’s marine economy. The Port of New Bedford is home to the nation’s top commercial fishing fleet, which together with seafood processing, cargo, passenger, and recreational activity, account for fully 2 percent of the entire Massachusetts economy.

“The Northeast Ocean Plan developed important data and information on navigation and commercial traffic and provides a much-needed framework that allows our existing marine industries to engage with new emerging economic uses like offshore wind energy," he said. "The Port of New Bedford will continue to be involved to ensure that the plan is implemented in a way that supports both new and existing marine industries.”

Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind, said, “Better decisions with the best available data mean our industry has greater success in building offshore wind; we also save time and money due to reductions in permitting inefficiencies.”

The Northeast Regional Planning Body is made up of representatives from the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The federal government is represented by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior, and Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The six federally recognized tribes that participated were Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council, Mohegan Indian Tribe of Connecticut, Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island, and Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).

Additionally, the RPB includes the New England Fishery and Management Council along with ex-officio members New York and Canada.

For more information on the RPB or to see the Ocean Plan in full, go online to