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Ocean Conference Explores Multiple Uses of Marine Resources

April 1, 2011

Once considered limitless-by ancient mariners and modern industrialists alike-the oceans' natural resources face growing pressures that can only be reconciled by a comprehensive use plan that balances conservation, energy development, fishing and other demands.

Image of whaleThat was the word at an April 1 conference at Vermont Law School titled "Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning: The Intersection between Energy, CMSP, and Our Future Needs." Attendees spent the day discussing ways to strengthen international ocean regulations and protect marine ecosystems, while exploring offshore energy resources.

The conference was part of VLS's growing commitment to students and faculty who are interested in marine law, policy and stewardship. In his opening remarks, Professor Kinvin Wroth, whose specialties include marine environmental law, praised the VLS students who organized the conference, which drew leading ocean experts from across the nation. "Today's conference is an auspicious start to what I hope is an ambitious" expansion of ocean law course offerings and other initiatives at VLS, he said.

In 2010, President Obama established America's first National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and Great Lakes. One of the priorities of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force is creating a coastal and marine spatial plan (CMSP).

The VLS conference's first speaker, Emily Merolli '06 gave an overview of CMSP, which is "a comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas." Coastal and marine spatial planning identifies areas most suitable for various types or classes of activities in order to reduce conflicts among uses, reduce environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses and preserve critical ecosystem services to meet economic, environmental, security and social objectives.Image of ocean drilling

The oceans' competing-and often conflicting-uses include species and ecosystem protection, commercial and recreational fishing, tourism and other recreation, shipping, fossil fuel and renewable energy development, military training and aquaculture, Merolli said. Many marine uses occur near the coasts, where much of the world's human population and major cities are located, she added.

VLS Associate Professor Betsy Baker discussed the need to adopt CMSP and the Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines because of growing pressure for hydrocarbon development in the Arctic. Melting sea ice in the Arctic is opening new areas to drilling, shipping, military operations and other uses in the fragile ecosystem. Baker is an expert in Arctic law and policy and a senior fellow for Oceans and Energy at VLS's Institute for Energy and the Environment.

The conference's first panel focused on offshore energy and how it fits into CMSP, including implications of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. The keynote speaker, Meg Caldwell, director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program at Stanford Law School, discussed CMSP as a tool to minimize human-use conflicts in the ocean and how CMSP will be used to protect our marine resources and coastal communities. The conference's second panel focused on the national framework for coastal and marine spatial planning.

The conference was sponsored by VLS's Ocean and Coastal Law Committee, Environmental Law Society, Environmental Law Center and Office for Student Affairs and Diversity. The conference planning committee included Keisha Sedlacek, Lisa Campion, Shannon Eckmeyer, Megan Fowler, Jaffer Khimani, Sarah Mooney, Brian Navarrete and Emily Rochte.


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