Data on the Northeast Ocean Data Portal are organized into 10 themes: Marine Life & Habitat, Cultural Resources, Marine Transportation, National Security, Commercial Fishing, Recreation, Energy & Infrastructure, Aquaculture, Restoration, and Water Quality. The themes align with Portal users’ needs and with the goals of the Northeast Ocean Plan.

The Portal provides two types of interactive maps for viewing the data: 

  • Theme Maps show pre-selected, curated collections of data on key topics and are intended for users who want a quick and easy way to see the main datasets on a topic of interest. Theme Maps have basic mapping functionality and do not offer options to add different combinations of data or to adjust how the map displays the data.
  • The Data Explorer is a comprehensive, full-featured map that enables users to select and view their own custom combinations of data from all 10 themes. The Data Explorer offers advanced mapping functionalities such as the ability change the order and transparency of map layers.

This page describes the 10 data themes and provides links to the Theme Maps. To use the Theme Maps, click on the icons or text links. Please note that a Theme Map may not include all datasets on the topic, and users are encouraged to check the Data Explorer to see if additional datasets are available. 


Marine Life and HabitatNortheast Ocean Data provides an unprecedented amount of peer-reviewed data on where marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and birds live in the region, on their abundance or biomass, and on physical and biological habitats. The Marine Life theme has three types of maps:

Individual species maps show the geographic distribution and abundance or biomass of 150 species of marine mammals, birds, and fish. The majority of these data were developed through a partnership with the Marine-life Data and Analysis Team (MDAT), which collab­orated with the Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) and expert work groups.

Species group maps summarize data for species that are similar in their regulatory or conservation priority status, ecological or biological traits, or sensitivity to specific stressors such as noise. The RPB developed the species group maps based on discussions with government agency staff, ocean planning work group participants, and members of the public. The species group maps are intended to provide these users with information to support regulatory, management, and conservation activities.

Habitat maps show physical habitat and biological habitat characteristics. Physical habitat data include seafloor sediment types, seabed forms, and oceanography. Biological habitat data include plankton, eelgrass, wetlands, shellfish habitat, cold-water corals, and other benthic fauna. The Northeast Ocean Data Portal Working Group compiled the habitat data from authoritative regional sources with input and review by managers and subject matter experts. 

Maps: Mammals & Turtles // Birds // Fish // Habitat

For more information: Marine Life and Habitat section of Northeast Ocean Plan


Cultural ResourcesThe Cultural Resources map shows shipwrecks, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, National Park Service properties, and other federal, state, and local parks and reserves. In addition, it shows sites, landmarks, districts, and properties on the National Register of Historic Places that are located within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the coastline in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York; sites in Connecticut and New Hampshire will be added when the datasets become available.

Map: Historic Sites

For more information: Cultural Resources section of Northeast Ocean Plan

Marine Transportation

Marine TransportationThe Marine Transportation theme includes two subthemes: Navigation and Commercial Traffic.

Navigation: The Navigation map shows features that are important to waterway users such as mariners, fishermen, port authorities, pilots, and industry representatives, and to decision makers in order to maintain a safe and secure waterway. Features include aids to navigation, maintained channels, shipping traffic separation schemes, pilot boarding areas, anchor­ages, disposal sites, regulated navigation areas, and obstructions. The map features were reviewed and finalized with much input from stakeholders.

Commercial Traffic: The Commercial Traffic map shows density of vessel traffic in 2011, 2012, and 2013 based on data from the Automatic Identifica­tion System (AIS). AIS is a navigation safety system that monitors the location and characteristics of many vessels in U.S. and international waters using real-time signals from transponders on the vessels. The map can be toggled to display traffic for all vessels or for types of vessels: cargo, passenger, tug-tow, or tanker. The map does not show the number of vessel trips, or transits, but rather the relative density of vessels in a particular area over the course of a calendar year.

Maps: Navigation // Commercial Traffic

For more information: Marine Transportation section of Northeast Ocean Plan


National SecurityData for the National Security map were developed and reviewed by the Department of Defense (DOD). The map contains several layers showing DOD presence in the region: military installations, military range complexes, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Testing Range, OPAREA boundary, submarine transit lanes, warning areas, and Cape Cod TORPEX. Complete descriptions and appropriate DOD points of con­tact for each map layer are provided in the metadata.

Map: National Security

For more information: National Security section of Northeast Ocean Plan


Commercial FishingThe Commercial Fishing theme is intended to characterize commercial fishing activity from a regional perspective. The theme includes two subthemes: Vessel Activity and Communities at Sea. Data on recreational fishing are provided in the Recreation theme.

Vessel Activity: The Vessel Activity maps depict the areas where ves­sels operate in certain federally managed fisheries: multispecies, monkfish, herring, scallop, surfclam/ocean quahog, squid, and mackerel. The maps are derived from Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data maintained by the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and are the result of extensive engage­ment with the commercial fishing sector, fishery managers, and scientists in the region. The maps provide options for viewing the relative density of vessels operating in each fishery over defined periods of time. For each fishery, there are also maps that use speed thresholds (less than 4 or 5 knots depending on fishery) to differentiate fishing activity from vessel transit. A lack of VMS data in a given location does not mean no fishing occurs there. Some vessels in the fisheries listed above do not have VMS reporting requirements, and many other fisheries are not represented by VMS data, such as bluefin tuna, bluefish, black sea bass, dogfish, fluke, lobster, red crab, scup, skate, and tilefish.

Communities at Sea: The Communities at Sea maps show linkages between fishing communities and the fishing places that are most important to them. The maps are developed by linking Federal Vessel Trip Report (VTR) data (trip dates, gear type, number of crew on board, trip locations) with vessel permit data (vessel length, ports associated with each vessel). Regional maps show where fishing occurs with different gear types—bottom trawl, dredge, gillnet, longline, or pots and traps—and the relative importance of different places.  Port-specific maps indicate the most important places for fishing vessels associated with a selected port. 

Maps: Vessel Activity // Communities at Sea

For more information: Commercial and Recreational Fishing section of Northeast Ocean Plan


RestorationThe Recreation theme includes five subthemes: Boating, Whale Watching, Scuba, Recreation Areas, and Coastal Use Surveys.

Boating: The Boating subtheme features two maps from the 2012 Northeast Recreational Boater Survey: a map of actual boating routes provided during the 2012 boating season, and a map showing the relative density of those routes over that time. Also included is a map of long-distance sailing races from the 2015 Characterization of Coastal and Marine Recreational Activity in the U.S. Northeast.

Whale Watching: The Whale Watching map is based on information obtained through participatory geographic information system (PGIS) workshops conducted with approximately 20 whale-watching companies from New York through Maine for the 2015 Characterization of Coastal and Marine Recreational Activity in the U.S. Northeast. The map shows General use areas (extent of whale watching in the past three to five years), Dominant use areas (areas routinely used by most whale-watch operators, most of the time), and Transit areas (routes from homeports to General or Dominant use areas).

Scuba: The Scuba map shows recreational scuba diving areas based on information provided by the scuba diving community and individual recreationalists for the 2015 Characterization of Coastal and Marine Recreational Activity in the U.S. Northeast.

Recreation Areas: The Recreation Areas map depicts primarily onshore and nearshore recreation areas and facilities. These areas and facilities include water trails, boat launches, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, National Park Service properties, state-managed and municipally managed properties, national wild­life refuges and wildlife management areas, and other preserves and sanctuaries. The map was developed by the Northeast Ocean Data Portal Working Group, with input from recreational industry represen­tatives and state agencies.

Coastal Use Surveys: The Coastal Use Surveys subtheme includes several maps showing data from two surveys of recreational activity, as well as locations of board and paddle events. The 2012 Northeast Recreational Boater Survey gathered data on places where recreational boaters go for fishing, relaxing, swimming, and wildlife viewing. The 2015 Characterization of Coastal and Marine Recreational Activity in the U.S. Northeast collected data on where people go for shore-based recreational activities, surface-water activities, wildlife viewing and sightseeing, and diving and snorkeling.

Maps: Boating // Whale Watching // Scuba // Recreation Areas // Coastal Use Surveys

For more information: Recreation section of Northeast Ocean Plan


The Energy & Infrastructure theme includes two subthemes: Infrastructure and Planning Areas.

Infrastructure: The Infrastructure map shows the footprint of energy and telecommunications infrastructure in the Northeast. This infrastructure includes submarine cables and pipelines, offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, energy facilities located near the coast, and onshore electricity transmission lines and substations. Each of these data layers is derived from data products maintained by the Marine Cadastre in collaboration with the authoritative public and private sources.

Planning Areas: The Planning Areas map shows the status of offshore renewable energy projects and related planning areas in New England. The map classifies projects as operational, permitted, or currently in regulatory review. The map also includes planning areas for renewable energy planning in state and federal waters, and proposed tidal or wave energy projects that have an active preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Northeast Ocean Data Portal Working Group updates the map frequently in an effort to keep project, permitting, and planning area statuses current. Updates are made using data on wind energy lease areas on the outer continental shelf (OCS) provided by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), preliminary permit locations for tidal and wave energy projects obtained from FERC, and information about project areas in state waters obtained via collaboration with each state.

Maps: Infrastructure // Planning Areas

For more information: Energy & Infrastructure section of Northeast Ocean Plan


AquacultureThe Aquaculture map shows shellfish management areas and the locations of currently operating marine aquaculture facilities, based on the best available information from state aquaculture coordinators and programs. Currently, the dataset includes sites of shellfish, finfish, seaweed, and multi-trophic or other aquaculture operations in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York’s Eastern Suffolk County, and offshore federal waters in the Northeast. It does not yet include other sites in New York State. The Northeast Ocean Data Portal Working Group is collaborating with aquaculture coordinators in each state to fill data gaps and to improve accuracy of existing datasets. Because of inconsistencies among the datasets, map users are encouraged to read the metadata for each state’s data. The map also shows municipally managed, state-managed, and recreational shellfish beds in Connecticut. For shellfish management areas, the map shows shellfish growing and classification areas for New England states and New York. The classi­fication scheme used in this regional dataset is adapted from the National Shellfish Sanitation Program’s Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish. These data are merged from the same authoritative state sources.

Map: Aquaculture

For more information: Aquaculture section of Northeast Ocean Plan


RestorationThe Restoration map shows the locations of ecosystem restoration projects that, when implemented, will improve ocean health in New England. The projects encompass dam removal, fish passage, eelgrass, oysters, land conservation, watersheds, water quality, and wetlands. The dataset was developed and is maintained by the Northeast Regional Planning Body Restoration Subcommittee. It includes only those projects that are not fully funded and therefore represent an opportunity to invest in ocean health. A majority of these projects are eligible for federal funding and are seeking the non-federal cost-sharing match. A point has been placed at the approximate location of the restoration project, and a description is available by clicking on the point, including information on habitat func­tions to be enhanced or restored, project phase, cost, and acres or stream miles to be restored and/or enhanced. Any parties interested in funding the non-federal portion of a project may contact [email protected] or the appropriate state subcommittee representative for additional information. In addition to restoration projects, the map can display eelgrass beds and/or coastal wetlands for context.

Map: Restoration

For more information: Restoration section of Northeast Ocean Plan


The Water Quality theme includes three subthemes: No Discharge Zones, Impaired Waters, and Wastewater Discharges.

No Discharge Zones: This map shows areas where commercial and recreational vessels are prohibited from discharging treated or untreated sewage. Section 312 of the Clean Water Act authorizes states to establish No Discharge Zones and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve them based on its determination that there are sufficient sewage pump-out facilities to serve the area’s boating population. The dataset shows both final and proposed No Discharge Zones for EPA Regions 1 and 2.

Impaired Waters: This map shows lakes, estuaries, rivers, and coastlines that have been designated as impaired under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. It also shows water bodies that were at one time listed on the 303(d) list but now have total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) established to improve water quality. The impaired waters and TMDL features shown on this map are based on a data service hosted by the EPA.

Wastewater Discharges: This map shows municipal, industrial, and commercial facilities that have been issued permits to discharge wastewater under the Clean Water Act. Section 401 of the Clean Water Act established the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which authorizes the EPA and delegated states to issue these permits to facilities that discharge wastewater directly from a pipe, ditch, or channel. The facilities shown in this map are from a data service hosted by EPA. 

Maps: No Discharge Zones // Impaired Waters // Wastewater Discharges

Data Explorer

Data Explorer Thumbnail Image


Define and view any custom combination of data on one map