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How Do We Use the Atlantic Ocean? A Plan, and a Map, Could Help Explain It

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The New London Ledge Lighthouse in Groton, Connecticut, at the mouth of New London Harbor.

The northeast congressional delegation is rallying in support of a comprehensive management plan for the Atlantic Ocean -- the nation's first coordinated strategy for federal waters. 

It's called the Northeast Ocean Plan. So far, it's managed to gather the support of all 28 members of Congress from New England's coastal states.

Christine Hopper with the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group, said the idea of the plan is to frame out a way for agencies and individuals to think more holistically about how they use the ocean.

"In the past, we've always sort of looked at the ocean in silos," she said. "Whether that's people looking for developing wind or sand resources, or fishermen that are out fishing for their livelihood. And the agencies that make these decisions -- they kind of have blinders on, in a sense. They're out there to do their job, and they're not necessarily always considering the other aspects, and the other users out there."

Hopper said part of the plan will be increasing communication through data mapping -- continuing to use tools like the Northeast Ocean Data portal.

Interactive chart data from the Northeast Ocean Data portal.
Credit northeastoceandata.org
Interactive chart data from the Northeast Ocean Data portal.

That website includes detailed maps and information chronicling everything from frequently-traveled boat routes to underwater utility lines and coastal energy facilities.

"It's extremely helpful as we talk about the potential of maybe having offshore wind coming in," Hopper said. "We have a lot of new and upcoming uses that are going to have to figure out how they can balance with the traditional uses like offshore fishing."

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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