Call on President Biden to Take These 8 Actions for the Ocean

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President Biden has promised to make tackling the climate crisis a top priority. Doing so will require his Administration to both advance policies domestically and recommit the United States to international efforts to address this global challenge.

The ocean must be a core part of President Biden’s environmental efforts. The ocean absorbs more than 90 percent of the heat caused by our emissions and over 25 percent of our excess carbon dioxide and supports the lives and livelihoods of people across the country and around the world. 

There are several opportunities for the Biden Administration to advance bold, swift action to harness the power and potential of the ocean to tackle the climate crisis and create a more sustainable, more equitable future for people and the planet. An Ocean Agenda for the new Administration to adopt and advance this year should include key priorities to:


Commit the United States to 30x30

Update: On January 27, 2021, President Biden committed the United States to the goal of protecting 30% of land and waters by 2030. The bold and inclusive vision will support the efforts of people across the country, including rural communities, Tribal Nations, and many others on the frontlines of conserving, stewarding, restoring, using, and enjoying nature.

President Biden has previously noted protecting 30 percent of America’s land and waters this decade is critical for safeguarding species and buoying biodiversity. The Administration should commit the United States to this global goal and engage local communities to institute processes to identify and manage areas for protection to meet this threshold.

Explore the planet-wide mission to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030

Mark Sullivan / Marine Conservation Institute
Marine Conservation Institute
Robert Schwemmer / Marine Conservation Institute


Restore the Endangered Species Act

Update: In June 2021, the Biden Administration outlined plans to restore the Endangered Species Act, undoing many of the rollbacks of the previous administration and restoring protections for vital habitats that left threatened species vulnerable.

The Trump Administration systematically weakened the Endangered Species Act. President Biden should restore the intent of the ESA by reconstituting protections for species categorized as threatened and removing economic considerations for species categorization. Moreover, additional species are currently under review or have been proposed for Endangered Species Act listing.


Stop Pebble Mine in Alaska

Update: The Biden Administration announced plans to move forward with protections for Bristol Bay using EPA’s authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Bristol Bay, Alaska is home to the greatest wild salmon stronghold left on Earth, but the ecosystem is under threat from one of the largest proposed gold and copper mines: Pebble Mine. While the Army Corps of Engineers halted the project in November 2020, President Biden has previously expressed opposition to the project and can stop it for good.

Learn more about the campaign to stop Pebble Mine


Shield Communities from Toxic Plastic Facilities

We often hear of the dire consequences of plastics entering the ocean, but the impact starts even further upstream with marginalized communities disproportionately bearing the brunt of toxic pollution from extraction and production facilities. The Environmental Protection Agency should halt the development of new plastics facilities until the agency has issued updated regulations that protect communities from pollution and ensure companies take full responsibility for the products they manufacture. 

Explore the Break Free From Plastics Pollution Act


Secure the Greatest Sanctuary on Earth in Antarctica

Update: Special presidential climate envoy John Kerry announced on April 28th that the U.S. would join the EU, the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, and Uruguay in pushing for the designation of the East Antarctic and Weddell Sea MPAs—which would protect more than 3 million square kilometers of the Southern Ocean.

As a member of CCAMLR—the organization that governs the waters in the Southern Ocean— the United States is an important partner in the global effort to protect Antarctica. In fact, the last major marine protected area (MPA) in the Southern Ocean was secured in 2016 in part due to the leadership of Secretary John Kerry, who is now President Biden’s climate envoy. The Administration can reaffirm America’s resolve and leadership by championing three pending MPAs in the Southern Ocean to safeguard vital Antarctic ecosystems and secure the largest act of ocean protection in history.

See why Antarctica’s future is our future

John Weller
John Weller
Andy Mann


Reinstate Marine Protection in New England

Update: On October 8, 2021, President Joe Biden announced that the protections for the Seamounts Marine National Monument, as established under then President Barack Obama, will be restored.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument was the Atlantic Ocean's only fully protected marine sanctuary until last year when the Trump Administration opened it to commercial fishing. President Biden should restore protections to this ecosystem to provide needed resiliency and protection from overfishing. This marine protection can help whales and other marine life recover without impacting the livelihoods of New England fishermen.


Sign Legislation to Ban Driftnets

Update: On Feb. 4th, 2022, the U.S. House passed a bill banning the use of driftnets in federal waters as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act. The bill is now in conference, where it will be settled with a previously passed Senate version, before it goes on to President Biden for signature.

With an astonishingly high bycatch rate, driftnets—which are intended to catch swordfish—indiscriminately kill countless species each year, including many that are threatened or endangered. The United States Congress passed a bill to ban driftnet fishing, but President Trump vetoed it. Should the bill pass again in the new Congress, President Biden should immediately sign it and enforce the legislation.

Read more about the dangers of driftnets

Howard Hall


Eliminate Fishing Subsidies

The world’s fish populations have steadily diminished over the years. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that the state of the world’s fish stocks is “poor and deteriorating.” A key challenge is the more than $20 billion that governments provide in fishing subsidies each year, most of which, according to Pew, go to the owners of large-scale fishing fleets to help pay for fuel, gear, and boat construction. President Biden should eliminate U.S. subsidies that contribute to excess fishing capacity, overfishing, or illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Add your name to the petition urging President Biden to take swift action to restore marine life and make protecting the ocean a central part of the Administration’s efforts before we deliver it in February. Then, help build momentum by sharing the petition on Facebook and Twitter with #OceanAgenda.
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