Ocean Uses

When an ocean planner begins a search for the perfect location for an offshore wind farm or wave or tidal energy project, there are certain data sets the planner knows to use. Shipping, marine habitat, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Wind Energy Areas are all logical data set choices. But what about general ocean uses? Ocean uses data can show the planner where people go fishing, surfing, or recreational diving. And instead of forcing the planner to parse together data from a variety of sources, this data set within includes everything in one package. So why should ocean planners pay attention to the ocean uses data set?

  1. A continuous data set of ocean uses doesn’t exist anywhere else. Data for some ocean uses does exist. However, it tends to be disparate, forcing users to piece together shipping channels from nautical charts and local resources for surf spots. Before the creation of this data set, there was no resource that compiled everything relevant to planning at scales appropriate for planners to use. This data set fulfills that need and goes a step further by ensuring the data are all collected using the same protocol.
  2. To avoid conflict, planners need to know where we’re using the ocean. We can’t avoid what we don’t know. In order to make sure there aren’t physical or environmental conflicts between ocean activities, we need to know and pay attention to where people are already using the ocean. With the increase in telecommunications, recreational uses, ocean energy, research and more, it becomes ever more important to know where all of these uses are taking place.
  3. Ocean use data are important to any type of planning. Whether you’re shopping for a site for your new wind farm, siting a new pier, or simply looking for a good place to go recreational diving, you need ocean use information to avoid potential conflicts.

Quick Caveats. This data set is collected using a unique participatory mapping process designed to capture knowledge about ocean uses from actual ocean users. While ocean use data can be collected using various other means and methods, NOAA developed this participatory method to build a standardized protocol for data gathering to create consistent and reliable data at any scale and for any geography. While these data provide baseline information on a wide range of ocean uses, the data only represent ocean uses in a given place as a snapshot in time. Ocean uses are ever evolving and changing, so planners need to consider this aspect of time when using ocean uses data for planning purposes. In the future, NOAA will work with partners to share lessons learned when collecting ocean use data and encourage partners to apply the participatory method to update the uses data and add additional regions. Lastly, the ocean uses mapping method relies on the input of knowledge from stakeholders and ocean users, so getting the right people to participate in the mapping process and provide that essential ocean uses knowledge is essential to creating high quality, accurate data.

Data-Source Experts
Mimi D’Iorio, GIS Manager, NOAA Marine Protected Areas Center

For questions, please contact