Biden administration announces new ocean conservation proposals

The Biden administration announced a raft of ocean-related conservation efforts on Wednesday, World Oceans Day, including ending the use of single-use plastics on federal lands and a proposed marine sanctuary off the coast of New York.

In its announcement, the administration proposed a new sanctuary in the Hudson Canyon, a 7.5-mile-wide underwater canyon off the mouth of the Hudson River.

The announcement is part of a broader plan by the administration to preserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters. However, it was first nominated for sanctuary protections in 2016. The proposal does not unilaterally establish protections for the area and details of the protections will be determined during a public comment period, during which the local fishing and offshore energy industries will be allowed to comment.

The administration also announced a plan to phase out single-use plastics in national parks and on public lands by 2032. In a secretarial order Wednesday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland also directed department staff to find biodegradable or compostable alternatives for such products.

“The Interior Department has an obligation to play a leading role in reducing the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and our climate,” Haaland said in a statement.

“As the steward of the nation’s public lands, including national parks and national wildlife refuges, and as the agency responsible for the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats, we are uniquely positioned to do better for our Earth.”

Conservationist groups praised Haaland’s order, with marine preservation group Oceana calling it “meaningful action to keep this persistent pollutant out of our oceans and communities.”

“The Department of Interior’s single-use plastic ban will curb millions of pounds of unnecessary disposable plastic in our national parks and other public lands, where it can end up polluting these special areas,” Oceana’s plastics campaign director Christy Leavitt said in a statement. “We urge the secretary and Interior Department to move swiftly to carry out these changes to protect our parks from single-use plastics.”

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