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Coastal & Marine Spatial Planning

What is CMSP?

Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) is a comprehensive, transparent, adaptive, and science-based process to analyze and allocate the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas. Current and future ecological, economic, and social objectives identified through the planning process are addressed to reduce environmental impacts, align management decisions, facilitate compatible uses and reduce conflicts among users, among others. In practical terms, CMSP provides a public policy process for society to better determine how these areas are sustainably used and protected – now and for future generations. Successful management of the marine environment needs to be based on the best available science and will require continual information gathering to establish baselines, monitor ecosystems, and evaluate the efficacy of marine spatial plans.

CMSP in the Pacific Northwest

In 2010, President Obama released the National Policy for the Stewardship of Our Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes that adopts an ecosystem-based approach to management and an overarching framework of regional-scale CMSP. Previous to this framework, organizations in the Pacific Northwest had already embarked on CMSP efforts. In response to two national reports, the governors in CA, OR, and WA created the West Coast Governors' Agreement (WCGA) in 2006 to cohesively manage and protect the West Coast’s ocean and coastal resources. Specific efforts in the PNW include updating the Territorial Sea Plan and designating marine reserves in Oregon, and passing of a new law in Washington to create a state MSP plan. More recently, the WCGA and its regional partners have worked collaboratively towards the creation of a regional CMSP framework via a grant proposal submission in early 2011 to NOAA that sought funding for these efforts on the West Coast, and in planning for the West Coast Regional Data Network Workshop to be held December 13–14, 2011, in Oakland, California.

What is NANOOS doing?

NANOOS and the larger IOOS community it represents are poised to make critical contributions to the new CMSP frameworks, policies and plans being developed in Washington and Oregon as well as future regional planning efforts, including those established under the national CMSP framework. NANOOS’s priority areas of Ecosystem Assessment, Fisheries and Biodiversity, Maritime Operations, Coastal Hazards and Climate are directly relevant to CMSP concerns and will benefit from an overarching CMSP perspective. NANOOS is engaged with regional CMSP efforts by supporting needs assessments, participating in regional coordination projects, and facilitating discussions to identify objectives and tasks that take advantage of NANOOS's specific strengths to complement those of other CMSP partners. NANOOS has become an important regional partner through its distinct role coordinating marine monitoring, providing data access through innovative products and services, and maintaining outreach with stakeholders and resource managers.

CMSP activities that NANOOS is participating in include:

  • Maintain the monitoring asset inventory to provide information about the spatial footprint of coastal and marine research in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Collaborate with other IOOS West Coast Regional Associations (CeNCOOS and SCCOOS), the West Coast Coastal Atlas community, and Integrated Ecosystem Assessment regional leads (including the South Slough NERR), to integrate shared goals and efforts that support efforts aimed at the regional implementation of the National Ocean Council’s and the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health (WCGA) CMSP goals.
  • Develop maps and spatial assessments synthesizing temporally dynamic marine water habitats and key oceanographic processes, and make such data readily accessible to decision makers, planners, stakeholders, and support staff at agencies.
  • Facilitate regional CMSP data discovery and interoperability efforts that are informed by national priorities and IOOS resources while serving regional needs. This effort includes active support for the emerging local and regional data networks: the Oregon Coastal and Marine Data Network (Workshop report (PDF)) and the West Coast Regional Data Network.
  • Assist in the Washington and Oregon CMSP priority area of marine renewable energy by supporting the development guidelines for baseline oceanographic observations and create and distribute useful data-analysis products to decision makers and stakeholders.

Additional Resources

White House, National Ocean Council

NOAA Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Portal

Consortium for Ocean Leadership: Science Requirements for Marine Spatial Planning

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Marine Spatial Planning Initiative

Related NANOOS Products

NANOOS Asset List

Inventory of NANOOS assets.

NANOOS Visualization System (NVS)

The NANOOS Visualization System (NVS) provides easy access to forecast and observation data across a wide range of assets such as buoys, shore and land stations, high-frequency radar, and satellites.

Tsunami Evacuation Zones

Interactive tsunami inundation maps developed for Oregon and Washington coastlines, accessible through the NVS Tsunami Hazards Portal.

Oregon Coastal Atlas

Information for different coastal systems, access to interactive mapping, online geospatial analysis tools, and direct download access to various planning and natural resource data sets relating to coastal zone management.

Washington Coastal Atlas

Relevant information for use in coastal and shoreline resource planning and management. Information provided includes: locations of public beaches; location of beach closures; and an interactive coastal map.

NANOOS members involved in this effort include:

Regional Coastal Observing Systems



Central and Northern California

Great Lakes

Gulf of Mexico

Pacific Islands


Atlantic - Northeast

Pacific Northwest

Southern California

Atlantic - Southeast