Delaware Ocean and Bay Plan

DNREC’s Delaware Coastal Programs is developing an Ocean and Bay Plan to protect Delaware’s marine resources, ecological functions and ocean and bay uses. Developing the plan will include public input and review by stakeholders, residents and the public at large.

The Delaware Ocean and Bay Plan will provide a comprehensive, easy to use resource for decision makers and stakeholders. It will help them better understand and manage resources and uses occurring off Delaware’s coast and in the Delaware Bay.

Ocean and Bay Plan Development Process

The Ocean and Bay Plan development process begins with external organization engagement and includes focused topical input, public listening sessions, drafting an outline, releasing a draft plan and gathering stakeholder and public input before releasing a final plan.

Process flow chart for a planning process showing that external engagement, focused input and public listening sessions are complete and that drafting an outline has begun.

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Listening Sessions

The plan development process included three public listening sessions in the summer of 2023 — June 28, in New Castle, July 12, in Lewes, and July 23, in Dover.

Participants in the listening sessions identified topics of importance to help guide the planning process:

  • Conservation, health and sustainability of living marine resources and habitats, and the natural environment
  • Impacts of offshore wind development and transmission cables to marine life, tourism, property values and the viewshed
  • Visual and natural beauty of our coast and marine resources and the value of tourism in Delaware
  • Water quality and cleanliness

Learn more about the Public Interests and Priorities identified for the Ocean and Bay Plan.

Planning Area

Map of the Ocean and Bay Planning area, which includes all of the Delaware River adjacent to Delaware, the Delaware half the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean from the Delaware coast out to just past the edge of the continental shelf.

The Planning Area includes Delaware’s jurisdictional waters in the Delaware River, Delaware Bay and Atlantic ocean. To better understand the interactions between uses and resources occurring offshore, this plan will consider activities that extends eastward of the Delaware Atlantic coast, past the continental shelf and slope.


The demand for space in the waters off Delaware’s coast is escalating faster than ever before. Existing uses, such as commercial shipping, and newly emerging uses, such as underwater transmission cables, are expanding.

As the marine resources off our coast are forced to adapt to changing sea levels, warming waters and acidification, it’s important to ensure balance between the uses of ocean and bay and conservation of marine resources.


The preliminary goals of the Ocean and Bay planning process include:

Using the plan to better understand and manage resources and uses occurring off Delaware’s coast and in the Delaware Bay.

Protecting marine resources, ecological functions, and ocean/bay uses that provide long-term economic and social benefits for all Delawareans while recognizing and considering how current and emerging uses may impact the state.

Inspiring pride and stewardship in Delaware’s ocean and bay through education and knowledge-sharing.

Highlighting the ways the public can get involved in acting as stewards of the ocean and bay.

Expected Outcomes

A commercial seine net is dragged across the surface of the ocean.

The plan will serve as a reference document for existing and potential new ocean and bay users.

It will identify and characterize ocean and bay uses and serve as an inventory of ocean and bay resources. 

The plan will describe the impacts of each water-dependent human activity on other uses and identified resources. 

It will provide recommendations for best practices for balancing ocean and bay activities with the conservation of marine resources through spatial planning. 

The plan will explore how climate change has impacted and will continue to impact ocean and bay resources and uses. 

It will identify gaps and needs to support ocean and bay resource management.