Study: Ocean-planning cooperation spurs conservation

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A study published in the March 5 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that incorporating multiple stakeholder interests in a comprehensive approach to ocean planning reduces conflict and enhances cultural, conservation and economic benefits, according to researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Using a model of Massachusetts Bay, the study’s authors found that by designing offshore wind farms with multiple ocean users in mind, managers could prevent more than $1 million in losses to the incumbent fishery and whale-watching sectors, limit impacts on biodiversity conservation and generate more than $10 billion in extra value to the wind energy sector.

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and the university’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis developed marine spatial planning-minded wind farm designs and compared them with “business as usual” designs under traditional energy permitting.

Marine spatial planning brings ocean users together to make coordinated decisions about the use of marine resources.

The study shows that the value of marine spatial planning increases with the size of the planning area. Even small states will benefit substantially, both financially and in avoiding unnecessary conflict, but the states with the largest coastal areas, such as Florida, California, Hawaii, Texas, and Alaska, will benefit enormously, potentially in the trillions of dollars, researchers said.

“Strangers to marine spatial planning may worry that it means getting less from the ocean tomorrow. This study shows how smarts and science can help us all wind up with a little more … forever,” Les Kaufman, a marine biologist at Boston University and a collaborator on the broader project that includes this study, said in a statement.