Northeast Ocean Data Portal Newsletter • April 2021

This issue reviews the Portal’s data updates, events, and news during the first quarter of 2021 and looks ahead at upcoming happenings. 

At a January virtual meeting of the Seafloor Habitat Data Work Group, Ted Diers (NROC Ocean Planning Committee State Co-Chair and Administrator of the NH Department of Environmental Services Watershed Bureau) reminded us, “The ocean data portal is the special sauce — it’s not just data, it’s data that’s been vetted, looked at, it’s got the Good Housekeeping seal of approval from the various experts in their fields.”


Data Updates

All of the updated data below can be viewed on the Data Explorer map. Most Portal datasets are also available in downloadable databases or map services on the Data Download page.

Maps of New York Bight Wind Energy Areas Associated with BOEM’s Recent Announcement

View data showing the NY Bight Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) as announced by BOEM and the Department of Interior on March 29.

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Updated Maps of Proposed South Fork Wind Farm

View updated data depicting the proposed South Fork Wind Farm and South Fork Cable Export Project, along with links to additional information about BOEM’s recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Now Portal users can see the proposed locations for turbines and interarray cables, and the boundary of the wind farm work area.

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Portal Expands and Re-organizes Its Collection of Fisheries Management Maps

The Northeast Ocean Data Portal has made several major updates to its collection of maps of fisheries management areas and closures based on feedback received from fisheries managers and industry members as part of a collaborative project conducted by the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO), and Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) through the NOAA Regional Ocean Data Sharing Initiative. The updates include an expanded collection of management areas and closure maps, layers organized by fishery/management plan, and a new category for “expired” management or closure areas.

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State of Maine Floating Offshore Wind Research Array Area of Interest

In November 2020, the State of Maine announced its intention to apply for an offshore floating wind research array in the Gulf of Maine. A map layer representing the current Area of Interest for the Gulf of Maine Floating Offshore Wind Research Array, from which a smaller site of 16 square miles or less will be identified, is now available to view in the Data Explorer.

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Updated EPA Water Quality Assessment Areas and Status

In collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Water Quality Theme Map and Data Explorer now contain the most up-to-date water quality assessment areas and status information from the Assessment, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS). Clicking on an individual assessment area enables users to view the EPA “How’s My Waterway?” report.

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Population Estimates for 2014-2018

Portal users can now view the latest U.S. population data made available by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. These data are population estimates for 2014-2018. At broad zoom scales, the map shows county-level population data. When the user zooms in, it displays fine-scale, census tract-level data.

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Next Anticipated Data Updates

Marine Life and Habitat – Coastal Vegetation
The Portal team is working with US EPA Region 1, states, and experts in the region to update the existing data layers depicting current and historical extents of eelgrass (Zostera marina) and the current extent of tidal wetlands as well as the development of new data products that represent stocks of blue carbon in the northeastern US associated with eelgrass and salt marsh habitats. Learn more. The first of many data updates from this effort will be released in April 2021. Photo credit: Phil Colarusso

Recreation – Whale Watching
Coming very soon, the Portal will release updated maps of whale watching activity and the locations of major whale watching operators in the region. These maps and information build on NROC’s work to develop the first version of these unique datasets in 2015. The updates were developed over the past year in collaboration with whale watching vessel owners, operators, naturalists, and data managers in the region. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary recently explored the importance of whale watching to the region’s economy. Photo credit: Anne Smrcina/NOAA

Recreation – Scuba Areas
The Portal team also worked over the last year with the scuba diving community in the region to review existing data and consider updates. As a result, the Portal will soon release a new layer, in collaboration with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (, that show the locations of sites from Newfoundland to Virginia where divers have recorded marine life observations through their Volunteer Fish Survey Project. The new Portal layer will allow users to access and download dive reports for each location directly from Photo credit: Shutterstock

Other Updates Coming Soon:
Commercial Fishing – With the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Portal will add data depicting lobster fishing effort and catch by Maine Lobster Zone. The Portal team is also actively working on updates to fishing activity data products that reflect feedback from industry received via the collaboration between NROC, MARCO, and the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA). These updates will improve the representations of commercial fisheries activity by including the latest activity data by fishing year for each fishery.

Energy and Infrastructure – The Portal team works with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to ensure that updates to planning areas, lease areas, proposed projects, and infrastructure are included on the Portal in a timely manner, including data specific to the Ocean Wind project.

Aquaculture – States throughout New England provide updated information about the locations of aquaculture leases and activities as they become available.

Portal in Action

Maine Floating Offshore Wind Research Array
On February 5, the Portal was featured during a virtual Workshop to Build Knowledge and Further Stakeholder Engagement for the Maine Floating Offshore Wind Research Array as one of several available sources of data on ocean resources and uses in the region. To support Maine’s outreach and engagement efforts, the Portal added a data layer depicting the general research array location. Portal users can now view and overlay any combination of activities and wildlife layers within the general research array location in the Data Explorer.

Coastal GeoTools 2021
The Portal team spoke with new and existing Portal users during the GeoTools Tools Showcase on February 9. Participants discussed what types of data are available in general on the Portal, how users are using the Portal for offshore wind siting and planning, and data relating to sensitive species and archeological/cultural resources.

Presentation to New Hampshire Commission on Offshore Wind and Port Development
The Portal was one of several data sources and tools highlighted on February 23, during a virtual public meeting of the New Hampshire Commission to Study Offshore Wind and Port Development. During the meeting, presenters from New Hampshire Fish & Game and the New England Fishery Management Council discussed their use of Portal data to investigate fisheries patterns. The Chair of the Commission live-tweeted a screenshot of the Portal in action!
NROC/MARCO Marine Life Work Groups Kick Off Work for 2021
On February 25, over 50 members of the NROC/MARCO Marine Life Work Groups met to hear about and discuss the data updates and new data development that have been identified by NROC and MARCO as marine life priorities for 2021, including improved model outputs for North Atlantic right whales, movement information data products for coastal birds and seabirds, historical fish biomass data products, and stressor-sensitivity products for multiple taxa relating to climate change, submarine cables, and underwater noise. This work is funded by grants to NROC and MARCO from the NOAA Regional Ocean Data Sharing Initiative and conducted with the Marine life Data and Analysis Team (MDAT), led by the Duke Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab. Learn more.

Planning for Offshore Wind Energy Transmission
In late January and early February, NROC and MARCO held a webinar series to increase understanding and promote dialogue about offshore wind transmission planning in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. The full program, slides, and recordings of all three webinars are now available to view and download.

Upcoming Portal Events

Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) Meeting (April 8)

NROC will host its next virtual meeting on Thursday, April 8, 2021, from 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM. The agenda, briefing packet, and registration link are available in advance of the meeting.

NOAA EBM/EBFM Seminar Series – US: Northeast Ocean Planning and the Ocean Data Portal (April 14)

This presentation on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, at 3:00 PM for the NOAA Ecosystem Based Management / Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management Seminar Series will provide an overview of ocean planning in the Northeast and future opportunities. This presentation is webinar only; please register for the EBM/EBFM seminar here.

Portal Trainings and Demonstrations (Ongoing)

The Data Portal team provides trainings and demonstrations for various entities on an ongoing basis. Contact Emily Shumchenia ( to schedule a Portal training.