fishing boats

The Bay State's 1,500-mile coastline and rich ocean waters have shaped our history, economy, and cultural identity. Historically, the ocean has supported recreational activity and tourism, fishing and shellfishing, shipping and trade, scientific research, and many other endeavors. More recent ocean uses in Massachusetts include aquaculture, liquid natural gas (LNG) facilities, and high-speed ferries-and with our growing national energy crisis, we are now looking to the ocean for a sustainable source of wind and wave energy.

Until recently, management of ocean resources has been piecemeal-not only in Massachusetts, but nationwide. The tide is turning, however, with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts completing a comprehensive ocean management plan- a model for ongoing national efforts-as required by the Oceans Act of 2008.

Major Components of the Oceans Act of 2008

On May 28, 2008, Governor Deval Patrick, with the support of House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray, signed the Oceans Act of 2008. Specific requirements of the Oceans Act included:

  • Comprehensive Management of Natural Resources - For the first time, comprehensive science-based planning was used to assure long-term protection and sustainable use of ocean resources.
  • Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) Jurisdiction - The jurisdiction of DMF was not altered; the Oceans Act explicitly states that the oceans management plan is not intended to alter fisheries policy.
  • Appropriately Scaled Renewables - The Ocean Sanctuaries Act was amended to allow for the siting of "appropriate scale" offshore renewable energy facilities in state waters, except for the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary (offshore from the Cape Cod National Seashore on the Outer Cape), provided that facilities are consistent with the ocean management plan.
  • Ocean Advisory Commission (OAC) - A 17-member commission advised the Secretary as the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) developed the ocean management plan. The commission included State Legislators, agency heads, representatives from a commercial fishing organization and an environmental organization, an expert in the development of offshore renewable energy, and representatives from the coastal Regional Planning Agencies.


    LNG tanker

  • Ocean Science Advisory Council (SAC) - The Secretary also received assistance from a council of nine scientists with expertise in marine sciences and data management.

Summary of the Planning Process

The Oceans Act required the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop a comprehensive ocean management plan, following a scientific and stakeholder process leading to a draft plan by June 30, 2009, and the final promulgation of the plan by December 31, 2009.

Secretary Bowles appointed Deerin Babb-Brott to lead development of the ocean management plan and oversee the ongoing work of the Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) as Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Coastal Zone Management. Babb-Brott has decades of experience in coastal management and environmental impact review. For the three years prior to this appointment, he served as Assistant Secretary and Director of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA), where he managed the environmental review and public comment process associated with major development projects in the Commonwealth. Before joining MEPA, he worked for 13 years in CZM, serving most recently as the Assistant Director for Planning and Coastal Development. In addition to the advisory bodies required by the Oceans Act, a core group of agency representatives were convened during the development of the ocean plan. This core planning group included CZM, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Division of Marine Fisheries.

Plan development proceeded in three phases: information gathering, draft plan development, and formal public review of the draft plan/plan finalization. During each phase, EEA conducted an extensive public participation program. This included 18 public listening sessions held across the state to gather initial information, five public workshops to introduce the planning approach and solicit feedback before draft plan release, regular OAC and SAC meetings, five formal public hearings following the release of the draft plan, and hundreds of meetings with stakeholders such as pilots, fishermen, non-governmental organizations, and academia.

  • Phase 1: Information Gathering - Data gathering was an ongoing part of plan development, but a particular focus in the early months. At a series of statewide workshops and EEA presentations, the OAC, SAC, and public participants reviewed information gathered and data quality.
  • Phase 2: Draft Plan Development - In this phase, spatial analysis occurred and options for the management approach were refined, while public participation and expert input continued. In addition, the OAC and SAC reviewed plan components. This phase culminated with the release of the draft Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan on June 30, 2009.
  • Phase 3: Formal Public Review of Draft Plan - Copies of the draft plan were made available and notice of its availability for public review was provided in the Environmental Monitor. As specified in the Oceans Act, five formal public hearings were held. After the specified 60-day public comment period following the public hearings, EEA compiled and reviewed the more than 300 comments received following the release of the draft plan. The Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan was then revised and finalized for promulgation by December 31, 2009.

The Oceans Act also mandated that at least once every five years, the ocean plan be assessed and amended as necessary to ensure that the Oceans Act goals are met. To ensure that this mandate is met, and to assist in the evolution of ocean management in Massachusetts, the final plan identifies priority science and data acquisition tasks. As described in the ocean management plan's Science Framework, efforts are underway to conduct these priority research projects.

Earlier Efforts: The Massachusetts Ocean Management Initiative

In 2003, the Massachusetts Ocean Management Initiative was launched to develop recommendations on a comprehensive approach to managing ocean resources. Released in 2004, these recommendations helped form the foundation for the Oceans Act of 2008.

This information provided by The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs .