A Centralized Source of Reliable Data and Maps of New England’s Ocean

The Northeast Ocean Data Portal is a centralized, peer-reviewed source of data and interactive maps of the ocean ecosystem and ocean-related human activities in the northeastern United States. The maps on the Portal show the richness and diversity of the ecosystem and illustrate the many ways that humans and environmental resources interact. By providing user-friendly, centralized, and free access to data, information, and tools, the Portal facilitates decision making by a broad range of government agencies, industries, non-government organizations, academic entities, and individuals. Case Studies provide examples of how the Portal is used for regional ocean planning, fishery management, marine transportation, offshore wind development, aquaculture siting, and many other applications.

A Decision Support Tool for the Northeast Ocean Plan

The Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) launched the Portal in 2012 to support development and implementation of the Northeast Ocean Plan. Certified by the National Ocean Council in December 2016, the Plan aims to strengthen intergovernmental coordination, planning, and policy implementation to address the increasingly diverse and intense pressures on the ocean, while enhancing the public’s ability to participate in the process of managing ocean resources. The Plan was developed by the Northeast Regional Planning Body following several years of public engagement, scientific study and data analysis, and collaboration. Throughout the ocean planning process, the Portal was an important vehicle for engaging stakeholders and for informing options for the development of the Plan, such as by reviewing draft data products. Now it serves as an important tool for implementing the Plan by providing easily accessible, expert-reviewed data on human uses and activities for agency and public use.

Maps Show Marine Life and Human Dimensions of the Ocean

The data and maps in the Portal are organized into ten themes: marine life and habitat, aquaculture, commercial fishing, cultural resources, energy and infrastructure, marine transportation, national security, recreation, restoration, and water quality. The datasets featured in the Portal were identified by subject-matter experts and those engaged in ocean policy and management as being highly useful and relevant. For example, the maps provided under Marine Transportation display such critical information as recommended routes, traffic lanes, shipping safety fairways, dangerous or restricted areas, and areas of commercial shipping activity. The hundreds of Marine Life & Habitat maps depict the abundance and diversity of mammals, sea turtles, birds, and fish, along with their respective habitats. The maps for Energy & Infrastructure indicate coastal energy facilities for hydro, oil, gas, nuclear, coal, and wind energy, as well as the locations of transmission lines, pipelines and cables, and offshore renewable energy planning areas.

Coverage Extends from New York to Maine and Offshore

The Portal focused on providing data related to state and federal waters off Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. While geographic coverage differs among datasets, the Portal’s maps generally cover from Long Island Sound to the Gulf of Maine, and offshore to the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) boundary. Some datasets cover the land areas of the New England states.

Made Possible by Many Data Providers and Collaborators

Government agencies, academic researchers, and non-government organizations provide the data available in the Portal, and the Portal would not be possible without their participation and support. All of the data have been reviewed by experts, who helped determine the most useful and accurate ways to present data on the maps. Datasets are analyzed and processed to meet users’ needs and the Portal’s technical requirements before being released on the website (see Technical Background). Science-based and stakeholder-informed data products form the foundation of the Portal and the Northeast Ocean Plan. Stakeholders are continually encouraged to review spatial data on the Portal and to help interpret maps, provide additional information, and suggest appropriate uses of the information. Their input is invaluable in creating and validating the data in the Portal. For example, the Marine Transportation maps, which use data provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, were developed in consultation with the Coast Guard and the marine transportation business sector.

Developed and Maintained by the Northeast Ocean Data Working Group

The Portal’s databases, maps, and website are developed and maintained collaboratively by the Northeast Ocean Data Working Group, with oversight by the Northeast Regional Planning Body and with extensive input from the stakeholders, government agencies, and scientists in the region. The Northeast Ocean Data Working Group includes the NOAA Office for Coastal ManagementNortheast Regional Ocean CouncilNortheastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS), RPS ASAThe Nature Conservancy, and Waterview Consulting.

Contact Us

Do you have a question, comment, or suggestion about the Portal? Please email Nick Napoli at contact@northeastoceandata.org.

Data Explorer

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Define and view any custom combination of data on one map