Healthy Oceans Blog

TJ's Take: Memorandum on Ocean Mapping in the EEZ

Photo credit: NOAA

Back in November 2019, the Trump administration unveiled a new policy regarding Ocean Mapping of the U.S. EEZ and Nearshore Alaska. The EEZ, or Exclusive Economic Zone, was created by president Reagan through Proclamation 5030, which established 13,000 miles of coastline and 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean within United States jurisdiction. According to the current administration, the mapping of the EEZ will aid in the advancement of maritime commerce, seafood production, sustainable fisheries, energy production, tourism, recreation, national and homeland security, coastal and environmental protection, and more. The administration’s intent is to harness underutilized or undiscovered natural resources in the EEZ, like critical minerals, marine-derived pharmaceuticals, energy producers, and other areas of ecological value. Additionally, in order to produce the greatest return on investment of federal resources, the administration will collaborate with non-government entities to promote the economic, security, and environmental interests of the United States. This memorandum is divided into subsections regarding strategies for mapping, reviews for authorization and permits, and general provisions; As such, this fact sheet will lay out the main points of each subheading.

Sec. 2. National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the U.S. EEZ.

- Within 180-days of this memorandum (Nov. 19, 2019), the Ocean Policy Committee, Ocean Science and Technology Subcommittee, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will develop a strategy to map the EEZ and submit it to the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

- Mapping of the EEZ will reveal the terrain of the ocean floor (Bathymetry) and identify areas of interest; Exploration and characterization of these areas will then identify and evaluate the natural and cultural resources they hold.

- To further advance these objectives, the Director of OSTP and the Chairman of the CEQ will coordinate the development of opportunities for collaboration with non-government entities.

Sec. 3. National Strategy for Mapping the Arctic and Sub-Arctic Shoreline and Nearshore of Alaska

- Similar to section 2, within 180-days of this memorandum, NOAA, in coordination with the State of Alaska and the Alaska Mapping Executive Committee, will develop a strategy to map the shoreline and nearshore of Alaska and submit it to the Director of OSTP and Chairman of the CEQ to inform actions of the Ocean Policy Committee and other relevant agencies.

Sec. 4. Efficient Permitting of Mapping, Exploration, and Characterization Activities

- U.S. government and non-government entities conduct hundreds of exploration, research, and mapping activities in the EEZ every year, which help identify new sources of critical minerals, biopharmaceuticals, energy and other resources.

- These activities require multiple environmental reviews, consultations, permits, and other authorizations under Federal laws that ensure the protection of resources such as maritime heritage sites or sensitive marine natural resources.

- In order to reduce duplication and promote efficiency, within 180-days of this memorandum, the Ocean Policy Committee and the Ocean Resource Management Subcommittee, shall recommend actions to the Director of OSTP and the Chair of the CEQ to increase the efficiency of the permitting and authorization process for research, mapping and characterization activities.

Sec. 5. General Provisions

- Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed or otherwise affect:

(I) The authority granted by law to an executive department or agency.

(II) The functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

- This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to availability of appropriations.

- This memorandum is not intended to create any right or benefit by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, employees, or any other person.

- The Secretary of Commerce is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

The memorandum can be viewed here.