Is it possible to issue zoning permits for the ocean? Some US states think so. Due to the growing clashes between fishermen, offshore wind farms, oil rigs, and recreation-seekers, some believe that it's high time we start zoning the ocean itself.
The purpose would be to fairly distribute ocean areas to different industries—an undertaking easier conceived of than done.
According to the Washington Post:
To resolve these conflicts, a handful of states -- including Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island -- have begun essentially zoning the ocean, drawing up rules and procedures to determine which activities can take place and where. The federal government is considering adopting a similar approach, though any coherent effort would involve sorting out the role of 20 agencies that administer roughly 140 ocean-related laws.
Which of course would be a bureaucratic nightmare. Since companies can't lay claim to a specific plot of land, it's got to be determined who gets what in more nuanced ways.
Marine ecologist Larry Crowder, one of several scientists at Duke University who have compiled data for such plans, said the approach makes sense because ocean resources are not "equally distributed, whether it's oil and gas, or fish, or corals." But he added that the sea has so many overlapping activities that "when you begin putting these maps together, as we've done, it quickly becomes a train wreck."
And of course, how to go about divvying the areas up is a matter of huge contention, and the states are dealing with the idea in different ways. California, for instance, has decided to establish marine protected areas along its coastline and to broker agreements with interest groups along the way. Massachusetts plans on enacting a comprehensive plan that covers all major activities except fisheries.
How exactly this would impact the building of offshore wind farms and oil rigs is still up in the air.
These initiatives will give new meaning to the phrase "work in progress" and will surely be a massive undertaking. But if offshore wind farms, fisheries, and kayakers are to live together in harmony, shouldn't there be some guidelines?