Finding Space for All in Our Crowded Seas

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 4, 2009

The ocean is getting crowded: Fishermen are competing with offshore wind projects, oil rigs along with sand miners, recreational boaters, liquefied gas tankers and fish farmers. So a growing number of groups — including policymakers, academics, activists and industry officials — now say it’s time to divvy up space in the sea.

“We’ve got competition for space in the ocean, just like we have competition for space on land,” said Andrew Rosenberg, a natural resources and environment professor at the University of New Hampshire who has advised Massachusetts on the issue. “How are you going to manage it? Is it the people with the most power win? Is it whoever got there first? Is it a free-for-all?”

To resolve these conflicts, a handful of states — including Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island — have begun essentially zoning the ocean, drawing up rules and procedures to determine which activities can take place and where. The federal government is considering adopting a similar approach, though any coherent effort would involve sorting out the role of 20 agencies that administer roughly 140 ocean-related laws.

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