The ocean is busier than it’s ever been. Between human use, environmental efforts and coastal development, competing demands are at an all-time high, and therefore it’s critical every ocean stakeholder works in cohesion.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council (MARCO) and its Data Portal tool are steadily becoming the medium to create that cohesion. The tool allows users to visualize thousands of ongoing activities and processes occurring on the Mid-Atlantic coast and in the ocean, providing essential data for marine planning.

Karl Vilacoba“The Portal has about 3,000 maps showing the locations of human activities and natural processes taking place at sea. Activating any combination of these maps will show how the data relates, or in some cases conflicts, to one other. This allows ocean management agencies, permitting, etc. to make smart decisions based on the latest science.”

Karl Vilacoba | Communications Director, Urban Coast Institute

Karl Vilacoba works for the Urban Coast Institute (UCI) at Monmouth University, which is also the project lead for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal. MARCO, The Nature Conservancy, Rutgers University and Ecotrust have all helped bring the Portal to life and build on its successes.

So How Does The Portal Work?

When you log on to the Planner, you can search through and view any of the unique data sets containing information on the location of artificial reefs, commercial fishing zones, cargo routes and more. Each data set can be layered on top of one another to give a complete perspective of all the activities and habitats off the northeast coast.

Using the Data Poral

The Portal features 11 different categories of data ranging from marine life to renewable energy sources.

Who Uses The Data Portal?

As Karl explains it, “The Portal is designed to be used by anyone with basic web skills.” And while a grade school student can easily navigate the tool, its applications are far from elementary. Planning committees, state and local government agencies, and businesses are using it to learn and take real-world action. Below are just a few examples of how it’s being used:

  • Fishermen use the map to locate artificial reefs, which are home to large concentrations of fish.
  • Tugboat operators can see where wind farms are going and plan future routes around them.
  • Local organizations can allocate resources based on where recreational activities are taking place.
  • Undersea cable developers examine areas to ensure they’re not interfering with hotspots for scallop dredging boats.

As the Portal continues to grow and people discover new ways to use it, there’s virtually no limit on the number of ways it can positively impact the ocean and its development. While it’s been successful to this point in mapping the Mid-Atlantic, it has the potential to do even more – guide its future.

Listen to Karl Vilacoba explain how the portal helps people understand ocean activity.

Learn More About the Mid-Atlantic Data Portal

Click over to the Data Portal to see how it works and to test any of the layers. You can also find stories on how its data is helping environmental causes, government agencies and various industries make informed decisions in the Mid-Atlantic region.