Md. Officials Attend Ocean Summit

OCEAN CITY – State officials last week participated in a two-day summit in New York to brainstorm on a wide variety of issues facing the ocean and coastal communities throughout the mid-Atlantic region including Ocean City.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO), a coalition of five states including Maryland formed last summer to provide a unified, cohesive voice on issues affecting the ocean and coastal communities, held its first-ever summit last week in New York City. The summit, called Mid-Atlantic Ocean Conservation: Building Partnerships to Take Action, represented the first formal opportunity for the various stakeholders in the coalition to discuss and offer input on regional ocean issues since MARCO was formed in June by the governors of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, New York and New Jersey.

The stated goal of the coalition of mid-Atlantic states is to raise public awareness about ocean issues and to provide the opportunity to create strong, lasting partnerships among the various stakeholders across the region. In the past, the mid-Atlantic states have often been at odds over various issues related to the ocean and the coastal areas, or at least have acted independently of each other, but the formation of MARCO this summer is an attempt to get the sister states in the region to act in concert on the issues.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who attended the summit along with other state officials, said the first-ever formal meeting helped lay the groundwork for future partnerships and provided a good start to achieving the group’s stated goals.

“We have taken the first step toward improving the quality of water in our oceans,” he said. “Now, we must continue to work together, taking actions based on science, to create a more sustainable future for our states, our coastline and the waters that surround us.”

The event featured presentations on MARCO, the Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Conservation and several of the priorities of the organization including climate change, offshore energy and habitat protection, for example. The summit included over 135 participants including private sector groups, academia, business and industry leaders as well as state and federal elected officials. Among them was Steve Bunker, director of conservation programs for Maryland’s office of the Nature Conservancy.

“As an organization deeply concerned about the future of our oceans, the Conservancy looks forward to working with MARCO and other ocean stakeholders to chart a course that provides 21st century solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature,” he said.