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NCCOS Project

Marine Spatial Planning Data Development: U.S. Caribbean

This project began in July 2023 and is ongoing.

NCCOS and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service hosted workshops with stakeholders in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to identify spatial data for informed marine planning in the U.S. Caribbean. The goal is to increase regional capacity for ocean spatial planning and foster a community of stakeholders for future marine planning projects. The effort aims to support sustainable development, protect marine resources, and address future challenges in the region.

Why We Care
NCCOS and the National Marine Fisheries Service's Southeast Fisheries Science Center organized the workshops with the aim of building marine spatial planning capacity in the U.S. Caribbean. Specifically, the goals of the workshops were to learn about NOAA's marine spatial planning approaches and activities, inventory available spatial data for the US Caribbean, and document data shortcomings and gaps that need to be addressed. Ultimately, the outcomes of the workshops will help coastal managers, environmental organizations, and industry stakeholders plan the development of the region's "blue" economy, which includes offshore renewable energy and aquaculture.

What We Did
The marine spatial planning workshops were held from August 28 to September 1, 2023, and included staff support from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The primary goal of the workshops was to begin organizing the data that stakeholders will need to address future marine spatial planning in the U.S. Caribbean. The workshops were a "kick-off" activity, and there will be future opportunities for stakeholders to be involved in the process, whether in person or remotely.

Workshop sessions covered different ocean sectors, including: national security, industries (vessel traffic, pipelines, submarine cables), fisheries (commercial and recreational), natural resources (protected species and sensitive habitats), cultural and social resources (cultural uses of the environment, archaeological sites), metocean (meteorological and oceanographic data, bathymetry), and other factors.

During each session, we presented background information and the current data inventory for the specific ocean sector. Participants were asked several prompting questions to identify data limitations and concerns, missing data and contacts to acquire said data, and data gaps. Participants also reviewed the generated list of data gaps and noted in group discussion which ones stood out as high priority.

A conceptual image illustrating marine spatial science to find space in a busy ocean. Credit: NOAA.

Benefits of Our Work
By gathering spatial data and increasing regional ocean spatial planning capacity, the marine spatial planning workshops will have several positive impacts and benefits. These include:

    1. Informed Decision-making: With comprehensive spatial data, coastal managers, environmental organizations, and industry stakeholders can make more informed decisions about future development in the blue economy.
    2. Sustainable Development: The workshops will contribute to sustainable development in the region by incorporating data on protected species, sensitive habitats, and cultural resources into planning efforts.
    3. Enhanced Collaboration: Bringing together stakeholders fosters collaboration and the establishment of a community of stakeholders, leading to better-coordinated marine planning efforts.
    4. Resilience to Future Challenges: By identifying data gaps, the workshops will help the region prepare for and address future challenges related to marine planning effectively.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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