We Can Still Get 30x30 Right

Angelo and Margaret at IMPAC5

As IMPAC5 rolls through its final hours, the big take home for me from this week is that the rollout of 30x30 has been deeply flawed and that our movement needs to do considerably better if we are to heal the damage our species has wrought on the ocean.

The fishing industry and the science and management infrastructure that enables it are attempting to render #30x30 meaningless by changing the definition of "what counts" and what we consider "effective conservation."

The whole discussion around fisheries OECMs and the contributions of industrial fishing to conservation is akin to arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  Let me be clear: Industrial fishing does not contribute to conservation.

On the other side, many speakers, especially Indigenous leaders, brought attention to the conservation movement's shortcomings in respecting environmental justice and human rights.

The scientists behind the MPA Guide promoted their shared vocabulary for understanding MPAs -- individually we brought attention to the poor design, lack of implementation, and absence of enabling conditions to ensure positive outcomes for nature and people.

The strengths of the 30x30 goal are that it is easy to communicate and it has buy in at the highest political levels around the world. It has the added benefit of being supported by science!

But in fetishizing this singular definition of conservation success, we have spent too much time on the what, and not enough on the who, how, and where.

Who carries the conservation burden and who benefits?  Where are we placing our conservation efforts? And on the ocean, why is mostly done in places where the people are colonized?

And how did we make all these decisions, who was involved, and who made the final decision?

30x30 has turned into the Consumer Confidence of measuring conservation health -- it's all about vibes, and nobody really has a grasp on where we are or where we're going.

And while I continue to support 30x30, and I encourage our leaders to engage with local communities and to take action, I think it is far too simple, and while important, it is not enough.

Just as we measure economic health with multiple measures -- including consumer confidence -- but also unemployment & new jobs, inflation, and the stock market -- we need to use additional measures of ocean health and give them equal prestige among area based designations.

Yet despite coming to IMPAC5 to learn of the many shortcomings of 30x30 -- we also heard inspirational stories of solutions and I am overall optimistic of our movement going foreword.  I talked to hundreds of brilliant, caring people working across government, communities, philanthropy, science, civil society, art, and academia from all over the world. 

We can figure this out if we work together.

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