Ocean Community News

The Nature Conservancy Launches the Ocean and Coasts Network

Connecting the southeastern United States, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean to increase TNC’s impact and expand its reach

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announces the launch of the Ocean and Coasts Network (OCN): a program spanning nine southeastern U.S. states (Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia , Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas), the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean to address ecosystem-wide challenges with a cohesive and united approach that leverages the organization’s diverse expertise and resources across the region.

These combined geographies carry a great deal of importance to the U.S.: they represent over 50 percent of the country’s contiguous shoreline, the vast majority of its saltmarshes, and play host to the largest number of recreational anglers. They are dense with biodiversity and extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels, warming waters, and increasingly severe storms.

The impacts of climate change, threats to the health of global fisheries, and renewable energy siting are just a few of the pervasive challenges affecting our oceans and coastal regions. OCN is an important component of The Nature Conservancy’s response to these mounting and multi-pronged pressures, and will help to monitor, assess, and tackle these threats across three large marine ecosystems that are intrinsically linked: the Atlantic Coast from Virginia to the Florida Keys, Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas, and the Caribbean.

Through OCN, The Nature Conservancy will work collaboratively with community stakeholders, partners, agencies, local governments, other nonprofits, educational institutions, and the marine industry across geographies to:

  1. Advance coastal and marine science
  2. Support smart energy siting
  3. Partner with fishing communities
  4. Influence ocean policy
  5. Explore blue carbon opportunities

In Florida, multiple projects are underway with the collaboration of partners to address challenges in our oceans and along our coastline. Projects include efforts to improve coastal resilience with nature-based solutions to support adaptation to climate change in south Florida and Tampa; restoration of oyster habitat along the coast of Pensacola; engagement with recreational anglers in TNC’s Deck to Depth program to strengthen the health of our snapper and grouper fisheries through best fishing practices and data collection; and continuing stewardship of productive sea turtle nesting areas at TNC’s Blowing Rocks Preserve. And many others.

OCN’s collective government policy, community engagement, and marine conservation expertise will help connect and evolve the organization’s coastal strategies while increasing focus on open ocean conservation.

“Across the U.S. and the globe, coasts and oceans are major ecological and economic drivers. Maximizing their potential and maintaining their long-term health requires a collaborative approach that pools resources and combines diverse expertise and perspectives,” said Mary Conley, Southeast U.S. Marine Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy. “The Nature Conservancy’s Ocean and Coasts Network is a natural evolution of the essential work we have been committed to in these regions for over four decades and we are excited to unite staff, resources and local knowledge to tackle marine conservation issues that do not recognize jurisdictional boundaries.”

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