The marine and coastal zones of the world host a growing number of overlapping and at times competing uses and activities, including commercial, recreational, cultural, energy, scientific, conservation, defense and security interests. 

The quality of life on earth is influenced (or dependent) upon an understanding of the complex systems that define the world's oceans and coastal areas. The system controls our climate in that it influences rainfall and sea level; it controls access to major resources and raw materials and holds vast amounts of energy potential while supporting an explosion of population growth. Increased understanding and control of this system can be accomplished through development of a robust and active program of real time observations, data capture and evaluation, data management, data sharing, exchange and improved access to information to underpin modeling and visualization of the underwater and coastal environment – in short the development of a Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI).

Developing from a robust MSDI Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a comprehensive, ecosystem]based process through which compatible human uses are objectively and transparently allocated, both spatially and temporally, to appropriate ocean areas to sustain critical ecological, economic, and cultural services for future generations. MSDI is the framework of information and processes which informs MSP decision making. An adaptive process, MSP requires the participation and input of stakeholders throughout a plan’s development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. The level of success of a MSP effort will depend largely on the quality of stakeholder engagement which is derived from Policy, Organization to support spatially enabled government, and Standards. The current work of the White House’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force is leading the United States to begin adopting a national MSP framework. Once a framework is in place, successful MSP will require state and federal coordination and meaningful stakeholder involvement.

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