Protect Fragile Habitats from Overfishing

Target: Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee

Goal: Expand protections for marine areas to reduce overfishing and other damaging activities.

More than 40% of marine waters in the U.S. fall under some form of protection, often because of sensitive species, habitats, or cultural heritage sites. Most of these Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, allow multiple uses like recreation and fishing. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees MPAs in the United States, “the human footprint on the ocean is growing, and the expansion of existing and emerging ocean uses requires new and forward-looking approaches to comprehensive ocean planning.” Yet only a tiny fraction of U.S. waterways–roughly 3%–are considered ‘no-take zones’ that forbid all types of extraction.

Extraction can take many forms, all of which impact sensitive habitats and species. Such activities include fishing, drilling, hunting, and mining. Designating additional sites as ‘no-take zones’ would have a significant impact on the vitality of fish and other species. Such areas protect spawning grounds, and can serve as field laboratories where scientists can study the impact of human activity and its absence.

Illegal fishing and overfishing, together with ocean acidification and other effects of climate change, have put the world’s oceans in great peril. Between 2006 and the present, legal tuna catches dropped some 80%. This is a threat both to biological diversity and to human survival, as many people continue to depend on ocean fish for sustenance. Urge the MPA Federal Advisory Committee to expand existing no-take zones, and to nominate additional sites for this important level of protection.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear members of the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee,

As you know, today’s oceans face tremendous challenges from climate change and overfishing. The creation and expansion of Marine Protected Areas has been an important step in protecting our oceans. And yet the vast, vast majority of these MPAs continue to allow multiple uses–fishing, recreation, drilling, etc. We must do more.

Specifically, we must expand ‘no-take zones’ which ban all forms of extraction. Illegal fishing and overfishing are responsible for considerable catch declines in recent years, representing real threats to ocean diversity and human survival alike. Current no-take zones, like the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in California, also protect endangered species like humpback and blue whales, southern sea otters, and giant kelp forests that entire food chains depend on for survival.¬†And it is not just threatened marine species that are in trouble. Billions of humans the world over depend on fish for sustenance.

With ocean fish populations decreasing every year, it is clear that drastic action must be taken. Please, use your influence as a federal advisory committee to urge the U.S. government to expand existing no-take zones, and to nominate additional, sensitive habitats for this protection.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Kip Evans via Wikimedia

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