On Saturday, November 7, the Associated Press and many media outlets declared that former Vice President Joe Biden had won Pennsylvania (incidentally my childhood home) and with it the 2020 United States presidential election.
With the election now decided, I want to share how Oceana intends to campaign in the United States under a Biden Presidential Administration. The 46th President of the United States has a long history of public service, having served as vice president to President Barack Obama and as a member of the U.S. Senate for more than three decades. As you would expect from someone with such an extensive history in policymaking, President-elect Biden has already signaled many of his policy priorities. Climate change is at the top of the list.
President-elect Biden has written that “there is no greater challenge facing our country and our world” than climate change. The ocean is our greatest ally in the fight against climate change and has absorbed 90% of the extra heat in our atmosphere. Consequently, the ocean experienced the hottest temperatures on record last year and is steadily becoming more acidic and less hospitable. Marine habitats and life are paying the price: climate change is reducing the amount of fish that can be responsibly removed from the ocean – a cut-off point known as the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). East Asia has already seen MSY declines of up to 34%. The impact of climate change on specific nations and fisheries differs, but globally under the worst case scenario the oceans will lose up to 3 million metric tons of fish catch for every degree Celsius increase, which is more than the average annual catch for the entire country of Norway. Oceana will seek opportunities to work with the Biden administration to ensure its climate change platform achieves meaningful progress for our blue planet and restores the abundance of our oceans.
The President-elect already has indicated his intent to re-enter the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which President Obama rallied the world behind and President Trump removed the U.S. from in 2017. Oceana recognizes the need to strengthen the global response to climate change and supports the Paris Agreement. Implementing the Paris Agreement has the potential to protect 3.3 million metric tons of fish catch (approximately 90% of which would be in exclusive economic zones of developing countries) and increase fisher revenue by $4.6 billion.
The Paris Agreement and greater Biden plan also calls for a shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Oceana and our allies will continue to seek permanent protection for our oceans from dangerous offshore oil drilling. Along the Atlantic Coast, numerous fishing and tourism interests, including local chambers of commerce, tourism, and restaurant associations, and an alliance representing over 46,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families, are united against drilling. Oceana’s grassroots organizing has helped spare these coastal communities from the drilling threat and by promoting responsible offshore wind development, we can reinvigorate coastal economies.
We will also hold this new president accountable for restoring U.S. oceans. President Trump repealed or weakened 125 environmental safeguards. We will push for President-elect Biden to reverse rollbacks and strengthen necessary protections. We will continue our fight to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis and to ensure that the plastic industry is held responsible. Fins from up to 73 million sharks continue to enter the international fin trade each year – many destined for China. This trade is driving huge drops in shark populations, and a dozen U.S. states (including those voting both red and blue), and Canada, now ban the fin trade. We will press for a nationwide U.S. fin trade ban to help curtail the devastation. Only about 360 critically endangered North Atlantic right whales still swim off the East Coast, navigating a labyrinth of 1 million fishing lines beneath the surface and heavy shipping traffic just above. Oceana and our allies will save these whales and prevent the first large whale extinction in U.S. waters in centuries.
In the United States and around the world, Oceana has campaigned and, with our allies, won over 225 victories under administrations of various political parties. I’m confident that under a Biden Administration we will continue to achieve victories that restore U.S. oceans.