World Oceans Day 2021:

Media Contacts

Opportunities to expand the scope of ocean protections

Environment America

WASHINGTON — Over the past year, the political backdrop surrounding World Oceans Day celebrations in the United States has undergone significant changes. While the focus for activists and environmental organizations last year had centered on countering threats posed by offshore drilling plans, the narrative has shifted this year: Conservationists are now pursuing new opportunities to vastly expand the scope of ocean protections. 

At the heart of this change is a wave of policy shifts and new conservation targets set by the Biden administration. The Trump administration had wanted to open 90 percent of U.S. coasts to offshore drilling. While that plan was never realized, the Biden administration has moved in the opposite direction, issuing a moratorium on new oil and gas leases while assessing the costs of drilling to the climate and environment. Perhaps even more sweeping, the Biden administration has proposed conserving 30 percent of U.S. waters and lands by 2030.

“Giving whales, sea turtles, otters and all marine life a foothold on survival requires that we stop drilling and start protecting more of our oceans from all destructive activities,” said Steve Blackledge, senior director of Environment America’s conservation program. “Thankfully, the Biden administration, with it’s 30-by-30 statements and moratorium on new drilling, has focused on protecting the deep blue.” 

Many states, too, have dived into ocean conservation. Much of the state work has focused on eliminating single-use plastic waste from the environment. In the past year, New Jersey and Virginia have enacted new laws that ban single-use foam and other harmful, unnecessary plastic products. Additionally, Environment America and state partner groups have called on Whole Foods and parent company Amazon to stop lagging and start leading once again on plastic waste reduction efforts. 

Ocean conservation efforts can help threatened species rebound. From the North Atlantic right whale to the Southern resident orca, many species are in need of greater habitat protections. 

“We should use World Oceans Day as an opportunity to focus our attention on the plummeting populations of right whales, orcas in the Puget Sound, and other threatened marine species. We simply can’t let these majestic sea animals disappear on our watch,” said Blackledge.

Media resources on ocean conservation: 

Report on marine protected areas: New Life for the Ocean, a February 2021 report and digital “underwater hike,” demonstrated the value and effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs). From our release: “The stories in this report all point to one crucial conclusion:  When we act to preserve key ocean habitats, marine wildlife can get a foothold on survival.” 

Report on offshore drilling: Offshore Drilling, Onshore Damage: Broken pipelines, dirty refineries and the pollution impacts of energy infrastructure report uncovered how onshore industrial infrastructure created for offshore drilling can harm marine environments in a variety of ways.  From our release: “Drilling off our coast may seem far away from homes and businesses, but the onshore infrastructure necessary to drill for dirty fossil fuels creates a pressing threat to the health of both Americans and our ecosystems.”