Biden Estimate of “Conserved” Waters Inflated
Almost All 30×30 Waters in Remote Pacific; Scant Safeguards for the Rest
Washington, DC —The Biden administration plan to conserve 30% of all U.S. waters by 2030 rests on a shallow foundation of questionable assumptions, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The overwhelming majority of marine waters classified as protected are in the remote Central and Western Pacific, while most of America’s coastal, bay, and estuary waters are in poor and declining condition.
Next week marks the end of a comment period on an attempt to develop a definitive “Atlas’ to measure whether the Biden “America the Beautiful” will reach the goal of conserving 30% of U.S. lands and waters by the year 2030. Looking at the marine inventory currently used by the administration, PEER points out that it includes land areas and sanctuaries set aside to preserve shipwrecks, not biodiversity. In addition, that inventory –
- Relies on three vast remote Pacific marine monuments for more than 90% of all protected waters, while only 0.01% of continental federal waters have similar protection;
- Ignores that 97.6% of assessed coastal waters and 79.5% of bays and estuaries are so impaired by pollution they do not meet minimum federal water quality standards; and
- Includes areas under administrative restrictions that could be undone in a future administration.
“America’s oceans are under extreme ecological stress, and we need an overall rescue strategy,” stated retired University of Alaska marine professor and PEER Board Member Rick Steiner, noting that almost no Alaskan waters has any form of permanent protection. “Marine National Monuments should not be confined to the far Pacific. We need a national strategy of permanent protections for the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska, Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Maine, the Caribbean, and Pacific and Atlantic coasts. And this needs to begin now, not at the end of President Biden’s first term.”
Even taking the official estimates at face value, meeting the Biden goal requires that an additional 200,000 square nautical miles of marine waters be protected, an area roughly the size of France. Yet, nothing in the America the Beautiful initiative explains how that will happen. Further, the plan omits any analysis of threats, such as climate change, acidification, overfishing, and rising pollution levels.
“It is hard to celebrate America the Beautiful when America is losing the war for clean water,” added Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to spreading algal blooms and loss of seagrass in Florida waters as an example. “Federal agencies do not need an atlas to catalog protections as much as they need a compass to direct us to sustainable marine health.”