This year, the California Legislature got things done for our state’s beautiful ocean and coast — and we were a part of it. The Aquarium spoke up in support of science-based legislation for a healthy ocean, and several of these bills were signed into law. These important new policies will:
Improve youth access to our state parks,
Leverage nature’s most powerful tools against climate change, and
Cut back on waste by encouraging reusable containers at restaurants and food trucks.
Here’s a closer look at all the state accomplished.
The science is clear: The accelerating pace of greenhouse gas emissions threatens the health of ocean life and the living systems that support human civilization. New science emerges every day to support these conclusions, and this summer’s unprecedented global heat waves, torrential rainstorms and catastrophic fires demonstrate with clarity that we have no time to lose.
Now is the time to act with urgency to address the threat, not to reverse course on the progress we’ve already made.
The Aquarium will use its voice—including at the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco—to mobilize support for actions that reverse our self-destructive course, and put us on a path to a secure and sustainable future.
On June 19, the Trump Administration issued an executive order revoking the 2010 National Ocean Policy established by President Obama. The order also creates a new National Ocean Policy that shifts the focus of ocean resource management from stewardship and sustainability to oil and gas development and national security.
“The President’s executive order undermines our ability to sustain ocean and coastal resources over time for the benefit of this and future generations of Americans,” says Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “The new policy places too much emphasis on short-term economic gain over long-term ocean health and prosperity.”
For more than 30 years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has inspired conservation of the ocean. In light of the President’s executive order, we will redouble our efforts in Monterey and beyond—with businesses, elected officials and international leaders—to address the top threats facing the ocean today, advancing science-based solutions for a sustainable future.
For many of us, this past week has been a time of deep reflection about what the future holds—for our families, for our country and for our planet. All of us working for change, whether ocean conservation or human rights, will face daunting challenges and uncertainty in the time ahead.
But as I’ve been reflecting over the past few days, one thing has been a constant—how grateful I am to work for an institution that is such a positive force for change, and all made possible by people giving of their time, their support and their conviction.
We must continue to demand change and make it happen. And we will, despite the ups and downs of politics. Thanks to you, the Aquarium will continue to amaze and delight families from all over the world; spark a love of science and nature in young people; offer a sanctuary for wonder and reflection; and become an experience infused in the lifetime memories of millions of people.
Of course, the Aquarium itself is where our mission just begins. As we look to the future, I believe our approach to achieving conservation impact for the ocean will be more relevant and powerful than ever: engage consumers, work with business, bring science to conservation solutions. Where governments are ready to commit to effective ocean policy, help them do it.
Today is Ocean Day, when Monterey Bay Aquarium joins other ocean advocates in Sacramento for a day-long celebration of ocean and coastal health.
For the seventh year, the Aquarium is hosting a reception for nearly 200 state legislators, government officials, business executives and ocean advocates—people dedicated to conserving the health and vitality of our state’s ocean and coast.
They’ll enjoy sustainable California seafood rated “Best Choice” by our Seafood Watch program and fine wines from California’s coastal communities. We’ll also present awards to some of California’s strongest ocean champions, honoring the actions they took in 2015 to advance ocean and coastal health.
We have so much to celebrate here in California, thanks to forward-thinking decisions and policies that have made our state a global model for ocean conservation and thriving coastal communities.
Now more than ever, we need to build on our progress and continue to lead by example. This means ensuring we have strong, conservation-minded leaders for agencies like the California Coastal Commission and the Fish and Game Commission.
Three state legislators will receive our California Ocean Champion Award for 2016:
You may have heard of electronic tagging — technology that lets scientists track the movement of animals. Experts at Monterey Bay Aquarium and our partner institutions have used electronic tags to track sea otters along the California coast, as well as white sharks and bluefin tunas on their meandering marine migrations.
Now we’re cheering another kind of fish tracking: the kind that happens after they’re caught. Following the movement of seafood through the supply chain, a practice known as traceability, is key to ensuring fish products sold in the U.S. are sustainable and legal.
In 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama got the ball rolling on a federal effort to fight IUU fishing on a global scale. The newly announced seafood traceability program would make it easier for regulators to electronically track seafood coming into the United States — and keep illegal fish products out.
Margaret Spring, the Aquarium’s Vice President of Conservation & Science and Chief Conservation Officer, welcomed the release of the proposed rule.
“IUU fishing threatens ocean health and food security, and harms coastal economies and communities,” she said. “If designed correctly, the new traceability program could create needed transparency within the complex international seafood supply chain, reduce the risk of illegal products entering U.S. commerce and advance the sustainable seafood movement.”
A 2011 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization assessment found that 25 percent of 600 fish stocks monitored worldwide are overexploited, which can lead to population collapse. Another 52 percent are “fully exploited,” meaning any increase in fishing pressure could reduce their numbers to unsustainable levels.
These numbers matter as nations work together to conserve marine life in international waters. IUU fishing undermines those cooperative efforts, threatening the long-term sustainability of commercially important fisheries like crab, tuna and shrimp. One estimate puts the cost of IUU fishing to legitimate fishing fleets and to governments at $10 billion to $23.5 billion per year.
Illegal fishing – which is estimated to cost up to $23 billion annually in global fishing losses — harms vulnerable ocean wildlife, law-abiding fishers and everyday consumers. Now U.S. lawmakers have taken bold action to fight illegal fishing on the high seas.
On Oct. 21, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 774, the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015. The bipartisan bill will significantly improve the federal government’s response to IUU fishing, keeping black-market seafood out of U.S. markets, and encourage enforcement by other nations.
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 774 in July. It now heads to the White House for the president’s signature.
Statement of Margaret Spring, Vice President of Conservation and Science and Chief Conservation Officer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, on passage of this key legislation to fight illegal fishing:
“This week, the U.S. Congress declared to the world that the United States will not tolerate the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing that is threatening the health of our ocean, undermining the hard work of U.S. fisheries and coastal communities, and weakening consumer and business confidence in seafood products. Passage of H.R. 774 by the House of Representatives and the Senate is a major step toward improving the long-term sustainability of our ocean.
“The Monterey Bay Aquarium looks forward to President Obama’s signature to swiftly enact H.R. 774 into law.
More effective international enforcement
“Once enacted, H.R. 774 will strengthen U.S. leadership in the global fight against illegal fishing through more efficient and effective international enforcement efforts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“It will also make the United States a party to the Port State Measures Agreement. This landmark international treaty empowers nations to close their ports to vessels engaged in, or suspected of, IUU fishing. The goal is to prevent illegal operators from selling their catches on the global market.
“Implementing the Port States Measures Agreement is a top priority of the Obama Administration. The President’s Task Force on Combatting IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud recognized the agreement as a critical tool to shut down the global trade of IUU seafood. Together, the complimentary actions by Congress and the Administration will greatly enhance the ability of the United States to fight IUU fishing that occurs at global scales and impacts U.S. fisheries and seafood consumers.
Bipartisan support for action
“This important legislation represents a truly bipartisan effort – one that’s been developed over many years and has wide support within the seafood industry and among conservation organizations from coast to coast. We owe particular thanks to the longtime sponsor of the legislation, Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, as well as to the Senate sponsor, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and a long list of Republican and Democratic members representing the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
“In addition, we commend the bipartisan leaders and staff of the House Natural Resources Committee, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Senate Commerce Committee for their commitment and dedication to advance this bill to strengthen international enforcement against IUU fishing and build a more sustainable future for our oceans.
“U.S. leadership in the global fight against IUU fishing has taken a major step forward today. Congratulations to the U.S. Congress for taking this bold, bipartisan action that will benefit our oceans and coastal communities for generations to come.”
Statement of Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science and chief conservation officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, on the completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership ministerial meetings in Atlanta:
“The Monterey Bay Aquarium commends the Obama Administration and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman for their leadership in linking trade and markets to ocean conservation measures as part of the recently completed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
“The final agreement includes provisions that address several critical issues fundamental to the health of the Pacific Ocean and its coastal economies: sustainable fisheries management, measures to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, protections for sharks and other key marine species, and measures to eliminate harmful fishing subsidies.
“We look forward to learning more about the specific provisions in the agreement, as well as how those provisions may be implemented by participating nations in order to ensure effective protections for our oceans.”
Statement of Margaret Spring, Vice President of Conservation and Science and Chief Conservation Officer, Monterey Bay Aquarium
“The Monterey Bay Aquarium is disappointed that nations at the 89th meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission were unable to reach agreement on any new measures to conserve Pacific bluefin tuna populations. Pacific bluefin tuna are key top predators in the ocean, but the population’s breeding stock has been depleted to approximately 4% of historic levels. As the population continues to decline, we need all Pacific nations to collaborate and commit to a science-based, long-term recovery plan that will result in a healthy, sustainable Pacific bluefin population.
“We applaud the United States’ leadership in advancing a proposal at last week’s meeting to support new scientific analyses and collaboration across international science advisory bodies that could improve future conservation and management decisions. We strongly support the United States’ effort to include a science-based recovery target, known as maximum sustainable yield, as an indication of what measures are needed to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the species.
“Despite significant support from most Member nations, the Commission could not reach a consensus on the U.S. scientific analysis proposal, and unfortunately did not adopt any new measures.
“Now is the time for all nations fishing in the region to think beyond purely domestic concerns and commit to a Pacific-wide plan to reverse the decline of Pacific bluefin tuna in a meaningful, responsible and cooperative manner. This must start with a commitment to strictly adhere to scientific advice in establishing rebuilding targets. And it must include serious consideration of other conservation measures, such as protection for bluefin spawning areas.
“The next opportunity for action comes when the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meets in Japan at the end of August. We urge all parties to pledge their support for new international research investments, including electronic and emerging techniques for tagging and tracking bluefin tuna populations across the Pacific. This commitment is essential to strengthen conservation measures, and to advance a science-based, long-term rebuilding plan that will recover the species to sustainable levels.”
Greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, causing excessive global warming and rising sea levels. Accumulation in the ocean is causing acidification that threatens marine life – and much of the oxygen and food that we depend upon for our survival. Our actions hold the key to solving the climate crisis.
In addition to recognizing the urgent need to reduce harmful emissions, Governor Brown offers bold direction for California to effectively adapt to the unavoidable effects of climate change. This comprehensive approach is moving the nation and the world toward a more sustainable future.