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Student Q&A: Kyra Velock on Implementing the Biden Administration’s ’30 by 30’ Initiative in the Mid-Atlantic

Monmouth University student Kyra Velock recently authored a white paper that examines challenges and opportunities for the Biden administration to advance its America the Beautiful initiative in the Mid-Atlantic region. Also known as the “30 by 30” initiative, the plan seeks to conserve and protect 30% of U.S. land and ocean areas by the year 2030.

Velock researched the topic over the summer with funding support from the UCI’s Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars Program. Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate served as a faculty mentor on the project.

Experts interviewed include: Monmouth University Endowed Associated Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf; Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) New York Seascape Program Director Merry Camhi; WCS New York Seascape Program Associate Director Noah Chesnin; American Littoral Society Executive Director Tim Dillingham; New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Specialist Kevin Hassell; Pew Charitable Trusts Senior Officer for International Conservation Masha Kalinina; and Monmouth University School of Science Assistant Dean John Tiedemann.

Scroll below to read our Q&A with Velock and click here to view her white paper in its entirety.

Paper Title: “The ‘30 by 30’ Initiative: Implementing Area-Based Management Strategies to Confront Marine Biodiversity Loss in the Mid-Atlantic Region”

Student Researcher: Kyra Velock

Year and Major: Senior, Health Promotion

Q: What are some challenges unique to the Mid-Atlantic that the Biden administration may face in carrying out its “30 by 30″/”America the Beautiful” initiative?

The Mid-Atlantic has a long history of commercial and recreational fishing, as well as protected fishing practices in many indigenous communities in the region. Some challenges include commercial, recreational, and cultural resistance to implementation of more marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Mid-Atlantic because of real and perceived impacts to fishing access. Many fishers also oppose implementation of offshore wind farms, which could be valuable tools in reaching the 30 by 30 goal, because these facilities also restrict access to significant areas of the ocean. Fishing communities also generally don’t believe that offshore wind farms can aid in fisheries conservation. Lastly, ecosystem-based management methods of conservation are still a new concept in ocean governance; therefore, reliable science and research are essential to identify areas eligible for designation as MPAs. It may take a longer time to connect science, policy, and outreach to stakeholders in the Mid-Atlantic to fulfill the 30 by 30 objectives.

Q: The paper examines several policy tools for protecting ocean areas, such as the designation of marine protected areas, marine sanctuaries, and national monuments. Do you see any of them holding particular promise for the Mid-Atlantic?

I think de facto” and “under-the-radar” marine protected areas (MPAs) hold the most promise for the Mid-Atlantic region. These are regions of the ocean where human activity is limited or restricted for reasons other than biodiversity protection and conservation. They are not considered to be “official” MPAs, so there is no lengthy congressional process to designate this type of MPA. Some examples include offshore wind farms (de facto) and other effective conservation methods (OECMs), which may have different reasons for restricting human access, yet they offer additional biodiversity and habitat protection nonetheless.

Q: You explore objections from the fishing industry to the designation of marine protected areas and other measures that limit their ability to fish. What steps can the government take to ease these conflicts and find palatable solutions?

One of the most important steps the government can take to ease these conflicts is to involve fishing communities in the science and the process of establishing new MPAs because fishers often feel excluded from the designation process. When an area is designated to promote fish sustainability, such as a spawning ground for fish or to protect significant ecological features, it is important to involve fishers in the rationale behind the MPA. Including fishermen in the process of designating an MPA is also beneficial because they are more familiar with the marine environment than most government officials and policymakers.

Q: What reforms could the administration enact to help recover marine species and accomplish its 30 by 30 goals?

Reforming the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) may promote the recovery of marine species and protect biodiversity. In the paper, I recommend additional protections for endangered and threatened marine species by incorporating MPA objectives and characteristics into these legal frameworks for an added layer of protection from climate change-related threats. Through these adjustments, habitat degradation would decrease, food webs would remain more stable, and human disturbances would be more limited.

Abate to Deliver XIM University Talk on ‘Climate Change & the Voiceless’ Sept. 27

ConXerv, the Committee for Sustainability at XIM University in Odisha, India, will host Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate to provide a Sept. 27 online lecture on Climate Change and the Voiceless: Protecting Future Generations, Wildlife, and Natural Resources. The book talk is being presented as part of an immersion course offered by the university on sustainable development goals for climate action.

The event is free and open to all interested participants. Click here for registration and additional details.

VIDEO: The Empirics of Equity: Examining Tuna Management Decisions in the Western and Central Pacific and Indian Oceans

The UCI’s Marine and Environmental Speaker Series welcomed Angela Abolhassani, postdoctoral fellow for the Ocean Nexus Center at the University of Washington, on Sept. 22 to deliver the virtual lecture, “The Empirics of Equity: Examining Tuna Management Decisions in the Western and Central Pacific and Indian Oceans.”

An open Q&A session was held following the presentation. The discussion was moderated by Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair in Marine Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate, who also serves as director of the Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding.

Lecture Abstract: Equity issues are often foregrounded in intergovernmental negotiations that address transboundary environmental problems. However, while equity issues are a common feature of negotiations and the subject of a large literature on international environmental law and governance, equity itself has been subject to little empirical study. Limited research has been conducted investigating how states negotiate equity and what forms of equity are ultimately reflected in negotiation outcomes.

This presentation will discuss an empirical study of equity in transboundary tuna management. Tuna stocks are currently managed by a collection of five intergovernmental organizations called “tuna regional fisheries management organizations” (TRFMOs). These organizations assemble states at the regional scale to cooperate for the conservation and management of tuna stocks that cross national and international boundaries under international law. TRFMOs derive their management authority from treaty law agreed to by member states and annually adopt regulatory measures on tuna fishing activities in their regions. Equity issues within TRFMOs often emanate from tensions that arise between the conflicting interests of developing coastal states, which possess resource rights to tuna stocks, and industrialized fishing states, which flag vessels that track and harvest tuna stocks.

This study examined the law and practice of two TRFMOs—the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission—to determine how these organizations respond to equity issues arising from their work. Ultimately, both organizations performed poorly in applying legal commitments to equity to specific management decisions. This finding corroborates the small but robust empirical literature on equity, which indicates that states struggle to apply broad, equitable principles to specific decisions. Perhaps most interestingly, this presentation will discuss the principal finding of the study, which was that legal commitments to equity provided negotiators with a discursive flexibility to reach compromises and produce management decisions.

About the Speaker: Dr. Angela Abolhassani is a postdoctoral fellow for the Ocean Nexus Center at the University of Washington. She has studied transboundary tuna management from an interdisciplinary perspective for nearly a decade. Her work is primarily concerned with improving the equity outcomes of tuna management for developing coastal states. In 2020, she completed her Ph.D. with the University of Tasmania, which was a joint project between the Faculty of Law and Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. Prior to her Ph.D., she completed an honors thesis at Arizona State University which applied common pool resource theory to management of the South Pacific albacore tuna fishery. Dr. Abolhassani has also worked in the intergovernmental settings she studies, including with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

WATCH: Port Access Route Studies Update & Map Data Webinar

UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba moderated and presented on a Sept. 14 edition of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal’s “How Tuesday” webinar series that provided updates on a series of U.S. Coast Guard Port Access Route Studies (PARS) focused on major East Coast ports. The session was hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean in partnership with the Coast Guard and Northeast Regional Ocean Council.

Coast Guard personnel presented information on findings, public comment opportunities and next steps for studies concentrated on the Northern New York Bight and New Jersey Coast/Delaware Bay areas and participated in a Q&A session with attendees. In addition, demonstrations were provided for Coast Guard GIS web tools and map data on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast ocean data portals that can be used to explore the studies and their recommendations in further depth.