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Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan

Find information on and links to this blueprint for the protection and sustainable use of state ocean waters.

The Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan protects critical marine habitat and important water-dependent uses and sets standards for new ocean-based projects in Massachusetts ocean waters. The plan’s management framework is implemented within the existing regulatory structure, with the relevant agencies coordinating review and approval of proposed ocean projects.

In response to the Oceans Act of 2008, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) issued the original Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan in December 2009. The 2015 Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan was released in January 2015 as the first formal amendment to the ocean plan. Links to the plan are provided below, along with a description of the ongoing review and update process. Regulations governing the ocean plan are at 301 CMR 28.00 (PDF, 103, KB).

2015 Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan (current plan)

Review and Update Process

The Oceans Act requires EEA to review and update the ocean plan at least once every five years. As with the development of the original plan, this process is led by EEA’s Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). The 2019-2020 ocean plan review and update process is currently underway, beginning with a survey to inform the review.

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The previous review of the ocean plan was completed in 2015 and was the first formal review and update of the 2009 Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan. It began with a comprehensive assessment of progress and performance to achieve the requirements and commitments established by the Oceans Act and the ocean plan. EEA released the results of this assessment in the 2014 Review of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan (PDF, 2 MB), which provides a summary of the background and context for ocean planning in Massachusetts and reports on the ocean plan development process, including the policies and management framework, plan administration and implementation, and work on science and data priorities identified in the Science Framework. The document also synthesizes the views and opinions of the members of the state’s Ocean Advisory Commission and Ocean Science Advisory Council on the ocean planning and implementation process, and summarizes stakeholder and public input received during a public review process in June 2013.

In June 2013, through four public meetings and a formal 60-day comment period, EEA gathered input on the proposed scope for updates to the 2009 ocean plan. Also that month, EEA convened six technical work groups to review scientific data and information and identify and characterize important trends in ocean resources and uses. At meetings in the fall and winter of 2013-2014, the Ocean Advisory Commission and Ocean Science Advisory Council reviewed draft technical work group reports. In March 2014, CZM, with support from SeaPlan (formerly the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership) held two public workshops to share information and solicit input and feedback on the findings and recommendations of the work groups. The final work group reports are provided below.

For additional details on the review and update process through May 2014, see the Review and Update of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan fact sheet (PDF, 2 MB).

Based on the work group technical reports and input from advisory bodies, workshops, and public and stakeholder meetings, efforts over the spring and summer 2014 were focused on the development of the new draft ocean plan, which was released for public review and comment on September 24, 2014.

The release of the draft plan launched a 60-day public comment period. Five regional public hearings were held in Ipswich, Hyannis, New Bedford, Vineyard Haven, and Boston to solicit feedback. More than 75 organizations and individuals provided written and oral comments on the draft plan. With consensus guidance from the Ocean Advisory Commission and Ocean Science Advisory Council, adjustments to the draft ocean plan were deliberated and made, and the final 2015 Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan was released on January 6, 2015.

Additional Information

  • Ocean Plan Data - All of the spatial data provided in the ocean plan are hosted in the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS) online mapping tool. Launch MORIS to view, query, and map the data.
  • Nearshore Ocean Management Planning Area and the Ocean Sanctuaries (PDF, 3 MB) - This map shows both the nearshore boundary created for the Ocean Management Planning Area pursuant to the Oceans Act of 2008 and the five Commonwealth of Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries. A GIS shape file (ZIP, 114 KB) for the Ocean Management Planning Area is also available.
  • Ocean Advisory Commission - A 17-member commission made up of legislators, agency representatives, and stakeholder representatives charged with assisting the EEA Secretary in developing the ocean plan.
  • Ocean Science Advisory Council - A council of 9 scientists with expertise in the marine sciences and data management assembled to assist the EEA Secretary in the science and technical aspects of developing and implementing the ocean plan.
  • Ocean Resources and Waterways Trust - The fund developed for projects subject to ocean plan requirements.
  • Northeast Ocean Plan - This regional ocean plan for the Northeast was developed by the Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB)—a group with representatives from six New England states, six federally recognized tribes, nine federal agencies, and the New England Fishery Management Council.