Marine Resources

Our oceans and coasts are a precious natural resource. Yet despite their size and complexity, these resources are facing an unprecedented set of challenges, ranging from protected species and fisheries management to the uncertainty of climate change, that threaten their sustainability. Addressing these broad challenges requires effective engagement of policy makers, regulatory and resource management agencies, local governments, coastal communities, ocean-dependent industries, recreational users, environmental organizations and others.

Kearns & West delivers customized solutions centered around stakeholder-focused collaboration and public involvement to achieve marine resource management goals.

Kearns & West specializes in:

Sample Projects

      Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) – Sand Management Working Groups


      Kearns & West is currently working with BOEM’s Marine Minerals Program to design, facilitate, and support Sand Management Working Group meetings and webinars in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Florida, and Gulf of Mexico regions with BOEM’s Marine Minerals Program. The purpose of the meetings is to discuss the use of sand from federal waters for coastal restoration, appropriate project prioritization, timing, methods, legal requirements, and safety measures, as well as potential mitigation measures. The work also involves facilitating discussions between BOEM and its cooperating partners from states and universities to inform the development of a National Sand Inventory for federal waters.

      Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) - 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) Scoping


      BOEM’s OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program establishes a lease sale schedule that is used as a basis for considering where and when oil and gas leasing might be appropriate over a five-year period. A key step in this effort was to conduct environmental review of proposed leasing areas. Kearns & West worked over a three-year period to design, manage, and implement the public involvement process used to support development of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). This work involved two major rounds of public involvement: a scoping phase, followed by an opportunity for the public to review and comment on the Draft PEIS. Kearns & West worked with BOEM staff to implement an innovative public electronic-scoping process that was designed to enhance public participation opportunities in this nationwide process. This included developing a public involvement plan that outlined the proposed approach for collecting public input, outreach strategies, key messages, and the approach to ensure safe and secure meetings. To encourage a wider range of participation in the public scoping process, Kearns & West built a public-facing project website that provided information about the scoping process, links to social media and other informational sites, and encouraged people to submit comments on the PEIS electronically. Over the course of the project, Kearns & West also planned and facilitated more than 30 open-house style scoping and Draft PEIS public meetings in Alaska, the Gulf states, and southern and mid-Atlantic states. Additionally, Kearns & West promoted the meetings through advertisements and worked with BOEM’s Office of Public Affairs to promote the meetings through BOEM’s social media channels including Twitter and Facebook. In late 2016, BOEM issued its Record of Decision for its 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

      California’s Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup - San Francisco Littoral Cell Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan


      The California coast, like coastlines all over the planet, are facing increasing challenges caused by extreme weather events and rising sea level. A result of these forces is pressure being placed on local communities to manage increasing risks of erosion and flooding. Kearns & West was hired by California’s Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup, a partnership of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and California’s Natural Resources Agency, in collaboration with the Association of Bay Area Governments, to develop recommendations for a broadly supported governance structure and implementation approach for the San Francisco Littoral Cell Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan. The purpose of the plan was to assist government entities, municipalities, stakeholders, and communities in developing strategies for beneficial reuse of sediments within the region to address coastal erosion and storm damage. The work involved conducting assessment interviews and targeted meetings with jurisdictions responsible for Plan implementation, developing broadly supported recommendations for a governance structure, and then conducting broad public outreach and engagement around the review and finalization of the Draft Plan. The final plan was published in 2016.

      California Fisheries - Engagement Decision Support Tool


      The Resources Legacy Fund Foundation was seeking to engage with California fisheries on California’s primary fishery management statue, the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA). Kearns & West was hired to conduct a stakeholder assessment with a wide variety of commercial and recreational fishermen in California to better understand their views, concerns, and interests on the MLMA. The assessment included a suite of recommendations for conducting future engagement activities with California fisheries to support and improve MLMA implementation. Kearns & West then teamed with Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions to build on the assessment findings to design and develop an online decision support tool to assist California fisheries managers in their efforts to identify and select appropriate stakeholder strategies. The decision support tools incorporated such project-specific characteristics as engagement objectives, stakeholder characteristics, process timing, and legal and resource (e.g., staff and financial) constraints. The decision support tool was tested by fisheries managers and fisheries stakeholders alike in 2016 and is available to fisheries managers to support revision of California’s MLMA Master Plan.

      California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative – Regional Stakeholder Groups


      In 1999, the California legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which was California’s attempt to employ an ecosystem-based management approach to protect its marine resources. In 2004, a public private partnership – the MLPA Initiative – was established to guide implementation of the Act. Over a seven-year period, Kearns & West staff designed and facilitated four regional stakeholder groups as part of this effort. Each regional stakeholder group was charged with developing alternative proposals for marine protected areas in state waters. Parties in these processes included commercial and recreational fishing interests, tribes, harbormasters, ocean-dependent industries, conservation organizations, consumptive and non-consumptive divers, education and research interests, community members, and federal, state, and local agencies. The work included intensive strategic planning, process design, and agreement-focused facilitation tasks, including providing support for the Initiative’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and Science Advisory Team. It also included facilitation of public workshops, including workshops with tribal groups. The work on the central, north central and south coasts resulted in the successful development of alternative marine protected area proposals that the regional stakeholder groups forwarded to the Blue Ribbon Task Force for consideration and action. The north coast regional stakeholder group produced a single unified proposal. All of these proposals were sent to the California Fish and Game Commission for adoption.

      California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo - CalWave Test Facility


      In June 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy provided cooperative funding to the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) to initiate a study of a potential site for an offshore national ocean wave energy testing and research facility called CalWave off the coast of Vandenberg Air Force Base. This funding enabled the CalWave team to conduct preliminary siting studies, reach out to stakeholders, and complete additional research to understand whether a site off the coast of California might be suitable for future potential wave energy development. A national wave energy test facility would serve to jumpstart the emerging wave energy industry in the United States. The CalPoly team explored engineering, environmental, and other factors that could impact the success of an eventual CalWave project; Kearns & West was engaged to conduct an initial stakeholder assessment and design and facilitate public and regulatory agencies meetings to determine potential future issues and interests with CalWave. By late 2016, this work resulted in a highly engaged group of regulatory agency partners having identified key resource issues to be addressed during the permitting phase, and a strong mutual interest in learning about and exploring potential impacts of wave energy technologies in California.

      National Marine Fisheries Service- Columbia River Assessment and Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) Columbia Basin Partnership (CBP) Task Force


      The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) was developing an approach to comprehensive, long-term salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin. Kearns & West worked with Oregon Consensus and the William D. Ruckelshaus Center to provide neutral support to conduct a situation assessment to explore regional views. Kearns & West then provided process design, consultation, and neutral third-party facilitation for the development the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) CBP Task Force (CBP Task Force), a subcommittee of the MAFAC, formed by NOAA Fisheries pursuant to the MAFAC Charter and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). Kearns & West is leading the facilitation and strategic process design for the CBP Task Force. The discussions and products of the CBP Task Force will help advise the MAFAC and through MAFAC, NOAA Fisheries on ways to integrate Endangered Species Act (ESA), tribal trust, and sustainable fishing responsibilities into future management decisions for salmon and steelhead issues. The process involves facilitation with numerous parties representing NOAA Fisheries, states, tribes, and stakeholders in four different states and throughout the Columbia Basin. Kearns & West will help the CBP Task Force identify a shared path and vision to long-term salmon recovery and quantitative goals to meet conservation needs and provide harvest opportunities.

      National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary – Marine Shipping Working Group


      The waters off of the state of California are home to several species of endangered whales. These same waters are also heavily used by a vibrant shipping industry that connects California’s ports with countries all over the world. Evidence shows that, at times, these ocean going vessels collide fatally with these whales. Over the course of a year, Kearns & West worked with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary to facilitate the Marine Shipping Working Group – a multi-stakeholder body tasked with making recommendations to the Sanctuary for reducing the risk of ship strikes on endangered whales while at the same time striving to reduce air pollution, improve navigational safety, and minimize impacts on naval operations. The Marine Shipping Working Group used SeaSketch, a collaborative decision support tool, to develop alternative proposals involving the use of management areas, dynamic and seasonal management approaches, and alternative ship routing, for consideration by the Sanctuary Advisory Council.