Implementation of the National Ocean Policy in the Arctic Region

In July 2010 the National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes was established by President Obama through Executive Order to improve coordination of federal efforts and communication with state, local, and tribal governments in the management of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. Also known as the National Ocean Policy (NOP), it provides stewardship principles to guide resource management and establishes a flexible framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning. The NOP identifies nine priority objectives to address the most pressing challenges facing these resources. The priorities are organized into two areas:

  • How the Federal government does business:
    • Ecosystem-based management
    • Coastal and marine spatial planning
    • Inform decisions and improve understanding
    • Coordinate and support

  • Areas of special focus:
    • Resiliency/adaptation to climate change and ocean acidification
    • Regional ecosystem protection and restoration
    • Water quality and sustainable practices on land
    • Changing conditions in the Arctic
    • Ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes observations and infrastructure

The "Changing conditions in the Arctic" priority is unique in that it is the only one that identifies a single region as an area of special focus.

The President also created the National Ocean Council in July 2010 to provide sustained high-level interagency coordination to advance the new national policy and to oversee development of implementation strategy plans for each of the nine priority objectives. These plans will identify specific and measurable near-, mid-, and long-term actions to be taken; include smaller-scale efforts to build on existing activities, as well as more complex, larger-scale actions; identify lead and participating agencies; identify gaps and needs in science and technology; and determine resource requirements including steps for integrating and coordinating budgets. Content outlines for each plan were drafted in spring 2011 and opened for public comment from 2 June–2 July 2011.

The objective of the arctic component of the implementation strategy is to address environmental stewardship needs in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent coastal areas in the face of climate-induced and other environmental changes. To meet this objective the draft outline presents six actions:

  1. Improve arctic environmental response management;
  2. Observe and forecast arctic sea ice;
  3. Establish a distributed biological observatory;
  4. Improve arctic communication;
  5. Advance arctic marine mapping and charting; and
  6. Improve coordination on Arctic Ocean issues.

The first full draft of the National Ocean Policy implementation strategy is expected to be made available for public review later this year. For more information about the policy, please go to: For more information about the upcoming public comment period, and to read the full content outline of all nine plans, please go to: