On Tuesday, June 17, 2014 the White House rolled out plans to expand protection of vast areas of the Pacific Ocean controlled by the United States from over fishing and environmental damage. Just recently we published an article entitled Experts Call For Urgent Collaborative Action to Protect The Deep Sea that talks more about our deep oceans and the impact of trawling. The new plans are expected to go into effect later this year.
The announcement is part of the president’s national ocean policy and it coincided with the 2014 Our Ocean Conference held by the State Department on Monday and Tuesday at which Secretary of State John Kerry called for a global effort to protect the world’s oceans.
The Our Ocean plan covers 3 pillars which include (click each headline for more information):
“The ocean plays a vital role in the global economy by providing food and a source of income for millions of people. More than 50 million people work in the fishing and aquaculture sector, many in small-scale fisheries that are critical to the economies of their communities. More than three billion people, many of whom live in the poorest and least developed countries, rely on food from the ocean as a significant source of protein, highlighting the role of marine species in food security worldwide.”
“The ocean covers almost three quarters of our planet. Populations in coastal regions are growing and placing increasing pressure on coastal and marine ecosystems. Marine pollution of many kinds threatens the health of the ocean and its living resources. While the past decades have seen efforts at the local, national, and international levels to address the problems of marine pollution, more needs to be done.”
“The ocean regulates our climate and our weather and is essential for cycling water, carbon, and nutrients. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the ocean has absorbed nearly 30 percent of human-generated carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As ocean water absorbs carbon dioxide, it becomes more acidic. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ocean has become approximately 30 percent more acidic, a trend that is projected to continue. This rapid rate of carbon dioxide uptake means that the chemistry of the ocean is changing 10 times faster than at any other time in the past 50 million years.”
“We’ve already shown that when we work together, we can protect our oceans for future generations. So let’s redouble our efforts,” Obama said in a statement.
The president’s plan would expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from its current area of 87,000 square miles and would affect seven islands and atolls controlled by the United States. The coral reefs and marine ecosystems of this section of the south-central Pacific Ocean are some of the most vulnerable areas to climate change and ocean acidification, the White House said.
The president will also direct federal agencies to create a comprehensive program to prevent illegal fishing and stop illegally caught fish from being sold, a move designed to spur the market for sustainably caught seafood.
“Because our seafood travels through an increasingly long, complex and non-transparent supply chain, there are numerous opportunities for seafood fraud to occur and illegally caught fish to enter the U.S. market,” said Beth Lowell, campaign director at the ocean conservation group Oceana.
In addition the President aims to spur illegal fishing and stop illegally caught fish from being sold. He plans on protecting coastal communities that are facing challenges of climate change and offered $102 million in grants to restore flood plains and natural barriers along the Atlantic coast.
The measures will be carried out by executive order, and do not require congressional approval.
A comment period over the summer will allow the Commerce and Interior departments to hear objections and fine-tune the plan.