Washington state is currently developing a marine spatial plan for its outer coast under a mandate from its Legislature. One key mandate for the plan involves mapping areas that have “high potential for renewable energy production with minimal potential for conflicts with existing uses and sensitive environments.” Fisheries are a major focus with the Legislature mandating that the plan “minimize the negative impacts” on commercial and recreational fishing. The plan will apply directly to state waters and also seek to influence the siting of projects in federal waters through the Coastal Zone Management Act and linkages to federal marine spatial planning efforts.
The prospect of renewable energy projects in the ocean has been controversial. Washington’s coast is not heavily populated but no area of the ocean clearly shows “minimal potential for conflict.” The northern coast is home to Native American tribes who hold treaty rights to fish in the ocean, a national marine sanctuary, a national park, and hundreds of offshore rocks and reefs managed as national wildlife refuges. The southern coast is the center of the Dungeness Crab fishery, the most important commercial fishery for the coast's fishing communities. Planning has been ongoing for a number of years with the plan now scheduled for completion in 2017. This talk will reflect on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s experience with the process and will discuss how the innovations sought by marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management have played out so far.