A wild week for the future of the ocean

Biden unveils an Ocean Climate Action Plan

President Biden unveiled the nation’s first climate action plan specifically targeting ocean health. The Ocean Climate Action Plan advance several key climate initiatives, including providing 40% of federal investment benefits relating to climate change to disadvantaged communities; producing 30 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2030; conserving at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030; and achieving zero emissions from international shipping no later than 2050. It’s a huge step forward and possibly one of the most consequential pieces of ocean policy since the Guano Islands Act.

Biden also announced plans to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument, this would dramatically increase the proportion of protected oceans in US waters and get us closer to the 30 by 30 goal. The call also includes potentially renaming the Monument and several of the islands to recognize the history and heritage of Pacific islanders rather than the legacy of imperialism and colonization.

No word yet on the expansion of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Commercial deep-sea mining keeps trudging forward.

The International Seabed Authority continued its meeting this week and things are heating up in Kingston Jamaica. Several delegations raised the issue that the current Secretary-General of the ISA is advocating for an accelerated timetable to get the mining code finalized, even as a growing minority of member states are pushing for a precautionary pause in the commercialization of the industry while we work towards a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of mining on the marine environment.

“It is not the task of the secretariat to interfere in the decision making. In the past, you have actively taken a stand against positions and decision-making proposals from individual delegations.” said the German delegation in a letter of concern to the Secretary-General.

Meanwhile, at that session, the UK delegation revealed that UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, had been sold to Norwegian Loke Marine Minerals. Lockheed has been involved in deep-sea mining since the inception of the industry in the early 1970s and was involved in Project Azorian, the covert operation to recover a down Soviet submarine which served as a catalyzing event for the industry. The sale of UKSR effectively means that Lockheed has exited the deep-sea mining industry.

Meanwhile, it looks like the ISA Secretariate has been kicking accredited journalists out of the meeting.

It’s a bizarre move from an ISA Secretariat which has faced numerous critiques over a perceived lack of transparency. I can’t say that antagonizing journalists is a particularly wise tactic from a UN administrative body, but it certainly is a tactic.