Port of San Diego releases preliminary report on ocean planning

Collaborative pilot project begins with public input on ocean space uses and experiences.

SAN DIEGO — A collaborative effort between the Port of San Diego and California State Lands Commission to better understand offshore ocean uses near California’s second largest metropolis earned its first milestone. Both agencies involved in the collaborative effort accepted a preliminary assessment report of the San Diego Ocean Planning Partnership. The Port of San Diego formally accepted the report at its Dec. 11 port commission meeting – just days after the State Lands Commission did the same.

The preliminary assessment report includes public and stakeholder input, collected data, observations, lessons learned and a game plan for what’s ahead.

Both agencies made clear the ocean partnership project was not created to create ocean space zones for specific uses or otherwise govern the waters off San Diego County’s coast.

“The purpose of the first phase of the … pilot project – the Assessment Phase – was to better understand the ocean space by asking users and compiling and reviewing relevant coastal and marine-related data,” according to the partnership’s preliminary assessment report.

State Lands Commission staff added the ocean planning partnership would help policymakers better understand offshore uses, interactions and dynamics.

“The purpose of this pilot project is to understand current ocean uses more fully, the interactions and dynamics among them, including challenges and potential sources of conflict,” State Lands Commission staff stated during a presentation to Port of San Diego commissioners.

The most frequently identified ocean use during the assessment report’s public and stakeholder input phase were recreation, resource management, conservation, research and commercial.

Recreational uses include boating, fishing, swimming, sailing and dock space. Resource management covers fisheries management (take limits, fish size, permits), environmental reviews and Marine Protected Areas. Conservation, meanwhile, covers ecosystem restoration, species conservation and understanding population dynamics.

Other recognized ocean uses included dredging, salt extraction, deep-sea fishing, aquaculture and maritime business (such as cargo ships or shipping).

Stakeholders and members of the public also recognized several challenges associated with the diverse range of ocean uses, including regulatory and management hurdles, environmental conditions, balancing competing uses, operational resources, pollution, limited data, coastal access, interagency coordination and effectively communicating with the public.

The port district and State Lands Commission, in light of the preliminary assessment report, could realize a few benefits in properly executing an ocean planning partnership, such as improved communication and coordination among agencies, figuring out how to balance competing uses and increasing conservation initiatives.

A web mapping application is also part of the collaborative ocean planning partnership. The application, according to the preliminary assessment report, “is intended to provide an interactive, user-friendly interface for exploring current and best available ocean data.”

Both the port district and State Lands Commission stated they want the public and stakeholders to continue providing input. The port district and commission created the San Diego Ocean Planning Partnership in 2016 and aims to identify current ocean uses offshore of San Diego County. The gathered information, ultimately, could guide the decision-making process on ocean space initiatives and policies.

More information about the ocean planning partnership could be found online at sdoceanplanning.org. Members of the partnership could also be reached via email at SD.oceanplan@slc.ca.gov.


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