Why It Matters: When the global “30×30” initiative to protect 30% of a nation’s lands and waters began to gather steam in the U.S., the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) led a coalition of hunting and fishing conservation organizations to help guide the initiative towards meaningful conservation efforts that build upon our past successes. Fortunately, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, administered through the regional fishery management council process, already ensures that our fisheries resources are among the best conserved in the world, and the HuntFish3030 coalition’s comments on what should count as “conserved” reflected that fact. At last week’s Council Coordinating Committee meeting, a report from a subcommittee of all eight regional fishery management councils illustrated with GIS data that we are already well beyond the 30% conservation goal of our marine fisheries along the U.S. Coast.
- As part of the Global 30X30 initiative, the Biden Administration “America the Beautiful” program will develop the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, which will serve as a baseline for what lands and waters are considered conserved in the United States.
- Members of the HuntFish3030 coalition previously submitted recommendations on what existing conservation measures should be considered in the Atlas, which included a suite of marine fisheries and habitats already under varying regulatory authorities of state and federal officials.
- Through an in-depth synthesis of current management efforts, the Council Coordinating Committee, which consists of the chairs, vice chairs, and executive directors from each of the eight regional fishery management councils, recently quantified existing conservation measures in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of U.S. waters and found that more than 70% of our marine resources should be considered conserved.
At last week’s meeting of the U.S.’s eight regional fisheries management councils, the Council Coordinating Committee’s (CCC) Area-Based Management (ABM) Subcommittee presented a report on their findings regarding habitat conservation that already occurs in the marine waters of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Subcommittee was tasked with quantifying existing area-based conservation measures that should be considered for inclusion in the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas (Atlas), which will serve as the baseline for what is considered “conserved” as part of the America the Beautiful initiative here in the U.S. and the “30×30 Initiative” globally.
In March of 2022, members of the CSF-led HuntFish3030 coalition submitted a suite of recommendations on both terrestrial and aquatic conservation measures that should be included in the Atlas. Among those recommendations was a section on marine waters, where the coalition members urged the Administration to evaluate existing federal and state marine fish and habitat management conservation status based on their current contributions to biodiversity and conservation outcomes rather than the severity of restricted use or activities within a given area. The findings of the CCC ABM Subcommittee’s “An Evaluation of Conservation Areas in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone” supports the HuntFish3030 coalition’s recommendations.
The report identified 648 conservation areas that cover greater than 72 percent of the total U.S. EEZ, either through ecosystem conservation measures, year-round fishery management, or seasonal management. In addition to area-based habitat conservation measures, such as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC’s) found in all eight regional council jurisdictions, Essentially, a large portion of the U.S. marine waters already have conservation measures that positions the U.S. as a leader in marine resource conservation.
A draft version of the Atlas is expected this summer. CSF and members of the HuntFish3030 coalition will continue to advocate for science-based management of our marine fisheries resources while ensuring sustainable activities like recreational fishing can continue along our Coast.