The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released the State of the Ocean 2023 that provides an overview of actions taken to advance the New York Ocean Action Plan (OAP). The report highlights partnerships and achievements from the first five years of the OAP, including enhancing ecological integrity, promoting sustainable growth, adapting to change, and empowering public stewardship.
The OAP is a coordinated and inclusive effort focused on improving the health of our ocean ecosystems and their capacity to provide sustainable benefits to New Yorkers through four interconnected goals. New York strives to achieve these goals to promote healthier ocean ecosystems that will benefit people, communities, and the natural world. Through 61 pointed actions to reach long-term goals, the OAP helps guide State funding, research, management, outreach, and education efforts.
The State of the Ocean 2023 summarizes activities that advance the OAP’s four interconnected goals: ensuring ecological integrity; promoting sustainable growth; adapting to change; and empowering public stewardship. The next phase of OAP implementation will focus on undertaking long-term actions, continuing to investigate the effects of climate change to ensure effective management, and empowering communities to take proactive approaches toward enhancing resiliency.
Ensuring Ecological Integrity
Three objectives identified to ensure ecological integrity include: protecting and restoring sensitive habitats; improving the management of important species; and evaluating the ecological integrity of the ocean ecosystem. Projects that accomplish this goal include developing a comprehensive ocean-indicators system, funding a research grant program, supporting various monitoring efforts, and proactively managing marine invasive species.
Promoting Sustainable Growth
The second goal of the OAP is to promote economic growth, coastal development, and human use of the ocean in a manner that is sustainable and consistent with maintaining ecosystem integrity. Activities that support this goal include enhancing the Geographic Information Gateway, ensuring New York meets ambitious energy goals responsibly, and creating and advancing the State’s Artificial Reef Program.
Adapting to Change
Increasing resilience of ocean resources to impacts associated with climate change is another goal of the OAP and is supported further by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) that commits New York State to an ambitious clean energy and climate agenda. The State of the Ocean summarizes efforts to monitor coastal changes, promote living shorelines, and investigate species-specific responses to the changing climate that support this goal.
Empowering Public Stewardship
Active public stewardship of marine resources is essential to enhancing the health of both the ocean ecosystem and surrounding coastal communities. This goal aims to increase stakeholder participation in resource management and offshore planning, advance ocean outreach and education, and support local and regional stewardship programs. This work is supported through partnerships to develop education and outreach materials and engage and empower the public to practice safe, responsible, and sustainable ocean use.
Many actions in the plan are supported by Ocean and Great Lakes annual appropriations through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) in enacted State budgets. In the FY 2024 State Budget, Governor Hochul maintained EPF funding at $400 million, the highest level of funding in the program’s history.
The EPF also provides funding for critical environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, enhanced recreational access, water quality improvement, and an aggressive environmental justice agenda.
The highlights in this report are brief summaries, and more information on various projects can be found on DEC’s OAP website.