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Overview and Index - CZM Ocean Management Program

Find details on the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Ocean Management Program with links to major initiatives and resources.

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, including renewable energy projects, natural gas 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 a proactive and coordinated approach to ocean management in Massachusetts.

On behalf of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), 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.

Program Priorities

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

  • Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan - The 2008 Oceans Act required EEA to develop a comprehensive ocean management plan. On behalf of EEA, CZM led the planning process and development of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan (ocean plan) and continues to manage ocean plan implementation and revision efforts. On December 31, 2009, the Commonwealth’s first-ever ocean plan was released. The Oceans Act further requires EEA to review the plan at least once every five years and update it if necessary. In January 2015, the first formal amendment of the original ocean plan was released. CZM completed a formal review of the 2015 ocean plan in December 2020, and released the final 2021 Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan on January 3, 2022. The 2021 ocean plan contains revised maps of special, sensitive, or unique resources and water-dependent uses, a current assessment of the status and trends in ocean conditions, and a Science Framework to ensure progress on key ocean management priorities over the next five years. To remain informed about future ocean plan reviews, updates, and amendments, please send a blank email to join-env-oceanplan@listserv.state.ma.us.
  • Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries - The Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries Act establishes five Ocean Sanctuaries in state waters, defines prohibited and allowed activities in these areas, and requires EEA and its agencies to protect the Ocean Sanctuaries from exploitation, development, or activities that would significantly alter or otherwise endanger their ecology or appearance when authorizing activities under jurisdiction. CZM is responsible for the care, oversight, and control of Ocean Sanctuaries and works with EEA agencies to implement the Ocean Sanctuary regulations.
  • 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 special, sensitive, or 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (PDF, 2.3 MB). 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.
  • Publications - This page provides links to these and other publications on ocean issues published or funded by CZM.
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