CNMI Ocean Planning Team renew policy discussions

The CNMI Ocean Planning Team recently held its kick-off meeting as part of the Pacific Islands Regional Planning Body (PIRPB) mission towards developing a comprehensive plan for the CNMI’s coastal and marine areas.

The CNMI representatives to the PIRPB are Acting Director for the Division of Coastal Resource Management Janice Castro and Secretary of Lands and Natural Resources Anthony Benavente.

Secretary Benavente noted that the PIRPB kick-off meetings focused on increasing the community’s understanding of the benefits and requirements of ocean planning in the CNMI.

“Our team discussed ocean planning needs and began identifying opportunities to build on existing planning, which include developing a process for drafting a comprehensive CNMI ocean plan and membership of the CNMI Ocean Planning Team. It is important that these discussions are renewed and improved to reflect the changes in our environment and all our stakeholders needs,” Benavente said.

Acting Director Castro further shared that discussions began with an overview and background of coastal and marine spatial planning and what could be included.

“Our group conducted exercises to begin thinking critically about the planning process as well as reviewing the processes that worked for other jurisdictions. When we look at sustainable management, and the establishment of PIRPB, we are considering different regions, diverse needs, and effective policy. From improving regulatory efficiency, to climate change and fishery management, balancing responsibilities described under Executive Order 13547, Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts and Great Lakes or the National Ocean Policy is for the betterment of our Pacific region, our indigenous people, and the nation,” she said.

Division of Fish and Wildlife Fisheries Biologist Trey Dunn added that during Day Two of the meetings, the group reviewed plans developed in other regions to find successful strategies and see how those could be incorporated into the CNMI’s plan.

“The two-day meetings ended with discussions identifying the next steps and who would complete them.  This meeting is the beginning of a two-year process to create a successful coastal and marine spatial plan to limit conflicts and encourage more efficient use of the CNMI’s coastal and marine areas as demand for resources and space increase,” Dunn said.

Governor Ralph DLG. Torres noted that four years ago when the PIRPB was established, sustainable management of coastal and marine resources was to focus on data with collaboration throughout the Pacific region.

“As we’ve seen with discussions and data provided by NOAA and other related agencies, coastal and marine planning is an enormous undertaking. We are now, more than ever, emphasizing what data and science is showing us. Coastal and marine resources is crucial to the viability of Pacific Island economies, and our decisions now moving forward will reflect the diverse needs of our region and will better inform local management practices, maintain the health of the ocean, support employment and new economic opportunities, and preserve our most valuable resource. I commend the CNMI Ocean Planning Team for their diligence and efforts towards this development,” Governor Torres said.

The Pacific Islands Regional Planning Body (PIRPB) was established April 2013.  Its members will work together to develop a regional plan for the balanced, sustainable management of the coastal and marine areas of the Pacific Islands region using guidance from the National Ocean Council, the National Ocean Policy, Implementation Plan, and Marine Planning Handbook.  The inaugural meeting of the Pacific Islands RPB was held in July 2013.

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