On December 9 and 10, 2009, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) hosted a 2-day stakeholders summit in New York City that brought together more than 135 participants from nongovernmental organizations, academia, industry, citizens and state and federal government. The goal was to raise public awareness of ocean issues and to provide the opportunity to create strong, lasting partnerships among stakeholder interests across the region.
“We have taken the first step toward improving the quality of the water in our Oceans,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Now we must continue to work together, taking actions based on science, to create a more sustainable future for our states, our coastline and the waters that surround us.”
The event, Mid-Atlantic Ocean Conservation: Building Partnerships to Take Action, represented the first formal opportunity stakeholders had to discuss and offer input on regional ocean issues since MARCO was created in June by governors of Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia.
“The National Aquarium is very excited to be a part of this effort to develop and implement programs in the Mid-Atlantic region to protect our oceans,” said the National Aquarium’s Manager of Conservation Laura Bankey. “Through our participation, we hope to work with new and existing partners to promote ocean health and to help people apply practical solutions for protecting marine life and our coastlines.”
The event featured presentations on MARCO, the Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Conservation and the four priorities that the states are committed to collaboratively addressing water quality: climate change, offshore energy and habitat protection. Other presentations included an update on President Obama’s National Ocean Policy Task Force and how its upcoming recommendations on ocean health and Marine Spatial Planning will impact the region.
“We are excited about the efforts by Governor O’Malley and the State of Maryland to work with the other Mid-Atlantic States to improve the coordination of ocean resource management through the establishment of MARCO,” said Steve Bunker, Director of Conservation Programs for the Maryland Office of The Nature Conservancy. “As an organization deeply concerned about the future of our oceans, the Conservancy looks forward to working with MARCO and other ocean stakeholders to chart a course that provides 21st century challenges with solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.”
Participants described the discussions as highly interactive, and it helped build support from key stakeholders and the public. The sessions identified additional concerns or priorities involving the ocean; to identified programs, activities and resources that stakeholders would commit to in order to accomplish the actions in the Agreement; and identified steps to continue engaging stakeholders. Facilitators were able to electronically capture and share participant feedback in real time.
The meeting promoted energized discussion and exchange of information to identify and clarify perspectives on issues affecting the region and the potential benefits coordinated regional approaches could provide.