PRESS RELEASE

Scientists Urge Biden to “Go Big” for Ocean Protection   

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For Immediate Release:  Monday, June 14, 2021
Contact:  Rick Steiner (907) 360-4503; Kirsten Stade kstade@peer.org

Scientists Urge Biden to “Go Big” for Ocean Protection

Marine National Monuments Needed in Alaskan and U.S. Coastal Waters

Washington, DC — Marine scientists are telling the Biden administration that “local, voluntary” actions will not be enough to reach his ambitious goal of protecting 30% of America’s oceans by 2030, according to a letter posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  President Biden will need to create new Marine National Monuments in Alaskan and other continental coastal waters to attain his “30 x 30” aspiration. Many marine scientists are concerned that the Biden 30 x 30 plan released last month made no mention of establishing Marine National Monuments.

Joining more than 90 university deans, department chairs, distinguished professors, researchers, independent scientists, conservation scientists, and agency scientist signatories are such scientific luminaries as Dr. Jane Goodall in advocating that President Biden “go big” with major policy initiatives for ocean protection.

Currently, the principal Marine National Monuments cover remote stretches of the central and western Pacific.  By contrast –

  • Only 1% of continental state waters, and 0.01% of continental federal waters are strongly protected;
  • While more than half of Alaska’s lands enjoy permanent federal protection, none of Alaska’s federal offshore waters receive comparable protective status, despite comprising half of the nation’s entire shoreline and three-fourths of its total continental shelf; and
  • America’s ocean ecosystems are in significant decline due to overexploitation, climate change, acidification, and pollution. Many marine species are threatened or endangered, and entire marine ecosystems, ranging from sea ice to coral reefs are severely threatened.

“All of our ocean ecosystems will have difficulty retaining functional integrity throughout this century’s climate crisis, and these ecosystems need the strongest protections we can provide,” stated retired University of Alaska marine professor and PEER Board Member Rick Steiner.
“Marine National Monuments are the most direct, durable, and strongest policy instrument available to President Biden to achieve the 30% goal for the oceans.”

The scientists’ letter urges the administration to prioritize highly threatened, productive continental shelf waters for protection as Marine National Monuments, including in the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska, Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Maine, the Caribbean, and Pacific and Atlantic coasts.  These are areas that received scant attention during the Obama and Bush administrations.

“The science on what is needed is perfectly clear,” added Steiner.  “It remains to be seen, however, whether the Biden administration can muster the political courage to follow the science.”

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Read the letter with signatories 

Revisit Biden 30 x 30 conservation goal  

Compare Biden preliminary plan to rely upon voluntary local action 

See PEER critique of that plan 

Look at anemic posture of Obama administration on marine protection