30x30 in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction ("the High Seas")

There has recently been a healthy debate around 30x30, or the aim to protect 30% of the earth by 2030. 

In the last blog installment, I summarized how California and the US are applying marine protected areas (MPAs) and other fisheries management tools so effectively that 99 percent of American wild-caught seafood, by volume, is sustainable - not overfished or undergoing overfishing. But what about other areas, particularly the high seas?
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea established a sovereign boundary out 200 miles into the ocean from the coastline of countries. Countries have full control of marine resources within that exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but beyond that 200 mile boundary are areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), also known as and hereafter referred to as "the high seas". The high seas are home to highly migratory species (HMS) with some being important to fishermen and global food security like tuna, and others being iconic and key to biodiversity - charismatic megafauna like whale sharks (Rhincodon typus). These animals travel great distances throughout their lives moving in and out of EEZs and the high seas. If one country does a great job of managing HMS, but the neighboring country does not, then those species can be subject to overfishing. This makes multi-national agreement on fisheries management critical for HMS.
We have multi-national forums designed to manage HMS on the high seas called regional fisheries management organizations or RFMOs (we're starting to get into an alphabet soup, but these are all key acronyms when talking about effective management of MPAs). RFMOs are in place for much of our oceans, cover nearly all commercially relevant fish species, and are an alphabet soup in their own right. For tropical and subtropical zones with an emphasis on tuna species like skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye, albacore and bluefin, we have the WCPFC (Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission) and IATTC (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission) in the Pacific, ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) in the Atlantic, IOTC (Indian Ocean Tuna Commission) in the Indian Ocean, and CCSBT (Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna ) in the Southern Ocean. For temperate and polar species we have SPRFMO (South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization) and CCAMLAR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) in the south and NAFO (Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization) and CCBSP (Convention on the Conservation and Management of Pollock Resources in the Central Bering Sea) in the north, among others. 
Tropical and subtropical tuna (source):
 
Temperate and polar regions (source):
The members of the RFMOs consist of the bordering states and other countries involved in fishing those areas, also known as distant water fleets. Distant water fleets are dominated by China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the EU/Spain, and Indonesia who account for 77% of high seas catch with longline and purse seine for tuna, jigging squid, and trawling for deep bottom fish being most common.  Representatives from coastal and distant water fleet countries sit around the table at the RFMOs to negotiate and agree to conservation measures that apply to all members and are designed to manage fish stocks at sustainable levels. Things don't always go to plan but we have recently witnessed the power of these bodies to find consensus and enact protocols for enforcement. For instance, an early December failure of the IATTC to agree on 2021 conservation measures led to diplomatic intervention and an extraordinary session later in the month enacted the necessary conservation measures. Minutes and reports of these meetings are available online and subject to oversight by the general public, advocacy groups and industry.  
The US or any other country making a 30x30 proclamation for the high seas is meaningless without agreement from our brothers and sisters who share these waters. Multi-national agreement is tough, and enforcement of agreed conservation measures on the high seas even more so. This makes RFMOs imperfect, but they are the institutional tools we have to work with, are improving over time, and the right venue for any discussion regarding high seas MPAs. It is also important to note that MPAs on the high seas have to be enormous by design to have any quantifiable benefit for HMS species like tuna, making other management tools like time/area closures, catch limits, and capacity limits more realistic. We have these in various forms and stages in each of the RFMOs. Again, not perfect but building blocks we are trying to strengthen. 
 In summary, in the context of enacting legislation, executive orders, petitions, or social activism as it applies to the high seas, lets recognize what we already have and build on that while also looking to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a guide for any new legislative, non-governmental, and industry initiatives. 

Pescavore CEO and Co-Founder Matthew Owens started his career in sustainable seafood as a rural aquaculture extension agent in the Peace Corps Zambia; he now leads the industry in promoting responsible tuna fisheries management including in roles appointed by the Secretary of Commerce as an advisor to NOAA for the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

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Is Aiming To Protect 30% of the Earth by 2030 A Good Idea?

Seems like it, but the devil would be in the details. The problem is there are very few details in many of these proclamations including the recent Executive Order by US President, Joe Biden. 
Protected areas can come in different forms. Some you can recreationally hunt and fish in, some you can’t; some allow commercial access (e.g. logging, oil and gas, fishing), some don’t. 
The goal with protected areas is to strike a good balance between human interests, like the wellbeing of coastal communities, and conserving nature - which also provides us longer term benefits. Sustainable fisheries play an important role in the nation’s economy. Combined, U.S. commercial and recreational saltwater fishing generated more than $244 billion in sales and supported more than 1.7 million jobs in 2017. However, the economic viability of the fisheries sector is now in great peril due to the effects of the novel coronavirus which destroyed demand for seafood across a complicated U.S. supply chain, from luxury items such as lobster and crab, generally consumed at restaurants, to grocery staples sourced from the world’s fish farms. With restaurants closed, many of the nation’s fisheries — across geography, species, gear types and management — have reported sales slumps as high as 95 percent (source). Federal CARES relief has been slow, and inadequate. Additional closures and regulation is likely to place untimely pressure on the sector.
So what does a good human, economic, and fisheries balance look like? A lot of that depends on baseline conditions and geography, or in our case oceanography. Right now about 13% of the world’s oceans are protected in some way and 26% of US waters are covered by marine protected areas (MPAs). It is also important to recognize that MPAs are just one way to manage marine resources. Catch limits including size and species, capacity limits like capping the number of fishing vessels or licenses, and time/area closures are tools used to conserve fish stocks and protect ocean ecosystems. These are applied so effectively by the US government under the Magnuson-Stevens Act that NOAA Fisheries most recent Annual Status of Stocks presentation to Congress summarized 7% of stocks are subject to overfishing and 19% are overfished (population is low) with all of the largest U.S. stocks reported sustainable: by weight, roughly 99% of American wild-caught seafood is sustainable (source).
Some research does show that MPAs can be effective at rebuilding overfished species in near-shore environments and in some deeper water benthic (sea floor) habitats. That is part of the reason why California established its Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), resulting in 124 MPA covering 16% of the State’s coastal waters. The Magnuson-Stevens Act overlaps with the MLPA creating one of the best marine resource management systems in the world; thus Federal and State waters in the US and California are already very well managed. There is room for incremental improvement with good science, careful planning, and multi-stakeholder involvement but not huge increases in MPAs. International waters, or the high seas beyond 200 miles from shore that are under national jurisdictions is a whole other can of worms. Please subscribe to the newsletter here and stay tuned as we dive into relevant areas for consideration on the high seas. 
Pescavore CEO and Co-Founder Matthew Owens started his career in sustainable seafood as a rural aquaculture extension agent in the Peace Corps Zambia; he now leads the industry in promoting responsible tuna fisheries management including in roles appointed by the Secretary of Commerce as an advisor to NOAA for the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
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Celebrate & Support California Fisheries

Celebrating World Oceans Day

There are 840 miles of coastline in California with waters rich in healthy, sustainable seafood. Due in part to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a science-based framework for management, US fisheries are generally abundant and well managed.

Heidi Rhodes of H&H Fresh Fish

 

This World Oceans Day, Pescavore Seafood hopes to help bring attention to the availability and diversity of seafood harvested in California’s bountiful waters through the lens of our local fishermen, fisherwomen and producers. We encourage you to join us on this visual journey and commit to taking direct action to ensure a future of healthy oceans, while preserving the heritage and vitality of our working waterfronts.

The San Francisco Crab Boat Fisherman’s Association

In the early morning hours of May 23rd a 4 alarm fire rang out at San Francisco’s historic Pier 45 destroying millions of dollars in commercial fishing gear. The majority of these losses have not and may not be covered by insurance. Learn more from KQED.org. Longtime crabber and fisherman Nick Krieger watched his dreams and more than $100,000 of his equipment purchased over the last 12 years burn in the inferno. This film is Nick in his own words.

Prior to this disaster, the Washington Post accurately predicted that many US fisherman would not survive the coronavirus economy. In the words of San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents Fisherman’s Wharf , “[the] business of crabbing is an inextricable part of what San Francisco is. It’s part of our reputation and our economy.”

At the time this newsletter was written, the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association collected less than 10% of the goal to raise $1MM for disaster relief.

 

H&H Fresh Fish of Santa Cruz, California

For 17 years, this family owned business has served the Santa Cruz and greater Bay Area Communities by bringing healthy, local seafood from dock to table.

 

Hans Haveman of H&H Fresh Fish

 

Learn more in this heartfelt story of living simply with gratitude and in harmony with the ocean and the community:

 

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Pescavore Big Wave Surfing Ambassador Wilem Banks

Pescavore Seafood of Santa Cruz, California

Healthy Oceans Seafood Company, the owner of the brand Pescavore, provides premium, sustainably harvested and resource-smart wild seafood products. A first of its kind innovation, these smoked ahi tuna and sockeye salmon strips are a 1.5 oz single serve, shelf stable, whole muscle cut portion. Every nutritious strip contains 14-15 grams of real food protein, and heart and brain healthy omega-3s. The company’s mission is to produce seafood products that consumers can trust while helping hard-working American fishermen, and coastal communities thrive.

Co-founder, Matthew Owens, started his career in sustainable seafood as a rural aquaculture extension agent with Peace Corps, Zambia. He now leads the industry in promoting responsible tuna fisheries management and social protections. Hear Matt’s story about how Pescavore came to be:

 

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The Global Agricultural Productivity Gap, what is it?

In short, the global agricultural productivity gap is a current index of how much food is globally produced today compared to how much will be required to feed all the world’s people in 2050, a little over 30 years from now.
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