Massachusetts is closely tied to the sea—from its long history with fishing and shipbuilding operations to today’s modern recreation and tourism industries. In recent years, the state has been faced with proposals for new uses of its ocean resources, including renewable wind and wave energy projects, liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipelines and terminals, and sand and gravel mining. These emerging uses and the concern for ensuring the health of ocean ecosystems and the sustainability of marine uses highlighted the need for advancing ocean management in Massachusetts—moving away from a "first come, first serve" basis to a proactive and coordinated approach.

On behalf of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) serves as the lead state agency for ocean planning—working with other state agencies and regional and federal partners to balance current and new uses of ocean waters while protecting ocean habitats and promoting sustainable economic development.

The major initiatives (both past and present) and ongoing efforts of CZM’s Ocean Management Program are summarized below:

  • Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan - On behalf of EEA, CZM led the planning process and development of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan—a comprehensive plan to manage development in state waters. CZM continues to manage the plan implementation and revision efforts.
  • Massachusetts Ocean Management Initiative (2003-2004) - To examine evolving ocean uses and develop a comprehensive approach to managing ocean resources, the Massachusetts Ocean Management Task Force was launched in 2003 and charged with developing recommendations, which were released in the 2004 Waves of Change report. This effort, which was chaired and staffed by CZM, spurred the passage of the Oceans Act of 2008 and formed the foundation for the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan and ongoing ocean mapping and management activities.
  • Seafloor and Habitat Mapping - Through its Seafloor Mapping Program, CZM maps the seafloor and collects data on the distribution and diversity of marine habitats and the animals and plants that depend on them. This information is used in a wide range of ocean planning and management activities—from identifying sensitive and unique resource areas for protection to improving permit decisions so that ocean projects avoid or minimize impacts to critical resources.
  • Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS) - This web-based coastal mapping tool provides detailed geographic data on Massachusetts ocean and coastal resources. Users can interactively view various data layers, create and share maps, and download the data for use in a Geographic Information System (GIS). All of the spatial data provided in the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan are packaged separately on a MORIS: Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan Data page.
  • Regional Ocean Partnerships - Massachusetts is both regionally and nationally recognized for its ocean management activities and works with regional organizations to build partnerships, coordinate on issues of regional concern, collaborate on specific projects and actions, and share lessons learned. Key partners include the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, and Northeast Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems.
  • Massachusetts Coastal and Ocean Education Guide for K-12 Teachers - CZM maintains a list of resources on ocean education with a special focus on Massachusetts-based programs and K-12 materials.
  • Publications - This page provides links to these and other publications on ocean issues published or funded by CZM.