America the Beautiful for All Coalition Ocean Policy Agenda

America the Beautiful for All Coalition members in Washington, DC 

The America the Beautiful For All Coalition comprises people representing hundreds of organizations, missions, cultures, and identities. The Coalition developed the 2024 Policy Agenda to achieve the most ambitious conservation goal of the century, conserving 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030.  You can download the full 2024 American the Beautiful for All Coalition policy agenda on their website.

I lead the ocean work group, and share our ocean policy agenda items below:

Ocean Justice for Coastal and Island Communities
Important progress was made for the ocean in 2023. The administration developed the first ever Ocean Climate Action Plan, which sets three goals to (1) create a carbon neutral future, (2) accelerate solutions that tap natural coastal and ocean systems to absorb greenhouse gases, and (3) enhance community resilience to ocean change. The administration also launched the Ocean Justice Strategy, which integrates principles of equity and environmental justice into federal ocean activities.

America the Beautiful for All Coalition ocean advocates are keeping an eye on justice for our most vulnerable coastal communities. The national target to protect 30% of US ocean is not enough to address the multiple threats facing the ocean, such as climate change, pollution, overfishing, and habitat loss, so the United States should go "Beyond 30x30" and adopt a more holistic and equitable approach to ocean management, wherein access, equity, and quality are measured alongside quantity.

Different sectors have different definitions of what counts as ocean conservation, and the current accounting methods are not adequate to measure the quality, effectiveness, and diversity of marine protected areas (MPAs). There are various tools and frameworks, such as The MPA Guide, Marine Conservation Institute╩╝s Blue Parks, and the IUCN Green List that can help design and evaluate MPAs in a manner that delivers both ecological and social benefits.

"Beyond 30x30" for a healthy and resilient ocean
The America the Beautiful for All Coalition calls for a shift from focusing on numbers and percentages to focusing on outcomes and impacts. We urge the ocean conservation community to work together with local communities, Indigenous peoples, fishers, and other stakeholders to create a network of geographically representative MPAs that are just, well-designed, and well-managed.

Championing justice and equity in ocean policy
Our advocates and partners across the country are contributing to a rising tide of ocean justice and highlighting the need for more inclusive and diverse voices in ocean decision-making. The Ocean Climate Action Plan and the Ocean Justice Strategy lay out a framework for integrating access, equity, and quality into ocean policy. While the United States is on the cusp of achieving the numerical goals of 30% conservation on the ocean years ahead of the 2030 deadline, it is worth noting that most existing U.S. MPAs are located in remote offshore areas in the western Pacific, many of which lack final management plans, while the coastal habitats and species that are most important for people and biodiversity are underrepresented in conserved areas and under threat. We shouldn't agonize over bringing sectors together for an agreed upon accounting of 30%, but rather focus on the human dimensions and enabling conditions to ensure access, equity, and quality of conservation along every coast. We propose the United States go "Beyond 30×30" on the ocean and adopt a more holistic and equitable approach to ocean management.

Critical habitats including salt marshes, seagrass, mangroves, and corals, and keystone species like oysters, kelp, and salmon, have supported communities of people for millennia before there even was a United States, and are all threatened by human use, development, pollution, and climate change. Protected areas around these coastal places – designed with sustainable uses in mind – are going to be much smaller than the huge marine monuments in the Pacific. But they are incredibly important to people and communities around the country. Developing conservation solutions around these places will not deliver the huge quantitative targets for 30×30, but are critical for achieving the goals of America the Beautiful to create jobs and support healthy communities and supporting locally led and locally designed conservation efforts.

Ocean policies

2023 Policy Updates & 2024 Priorities
The America the Beautiful for All Coalition calls on the administration to advance the policy solutions below in support of ocean justice, Indigenous leadership, natural climate solutions, and to ensure the U.S. commitment on the ocean go "Beyond 30×30."

In 2024, the Biden administration must deliver on the designation of six new national marine sanctuaries and active management for three marine national monuments.

Support marine protected areas design, designation, and effectiveness
The designation and management of MPAs must be locally led by the nearby communities who call these places home, and consistent with the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. In 2023, the Biden administration advanced the designation of six new national marine sanctuaries. This coalition submitted a comment letter in support of the final management plan for the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary and organized meetings between government officials and local leaders to advocate for the leadership of Indigenous peoples. The Biden administration must ensure that Native voices and local communities connected to each of the sanctuaries are able to fully participate in every step leading to the final designation of Chumash Heritage, Hudson Canyons, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Pacific Remote Islands, and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Sanctuaries.

Ensure marine protected area management and implementation
According to the Marine Conservation Institute, nearly 26 percent of U.S. oceans are in marine protected areas. But 97 percent of all MPAs are located in the remote offshore regions of the U.S. Pacific Islands and nearly half of the conserved ocean areas have no final management plan. Three monuments in particular — the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument — have languished without final management plans for as many as 15 years. 2024 has the potential to be the year when all three management plans are finalized and published because of the work undertaken during the first three years of the Biden administration and by our coalition partners. Draft management plans for Mariana Trench and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts were made available for public review in 2021 and 2023, respectively. With the support of our coalition partners and local communities, these comment periods resulted in hundreds of comments from fishermen, scientists, NGOs, and communities. The Biden administration must deliver active management for all three monuments.

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