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Ocean Justice Leaders Issue Statement on the First-Ever White House Ocean Justice Strategy

December 15, 2023

December 15, 2023


Read at Ocean Justice Forum.

Washington, D.C. – The Ocean Policy Committee, chaired by the Council on Environmental Quality and Office of Science and Technology Policy, released the first-ever White House Ocean Justice Strategy today in Dubai at the 28th United Nations Climate Change conference. According to the Biden-Harris Administration, the Ocean Justice Strategy is intended to build upon the White House Ocean Climate Action Plan, released in March 2023, to further the vision, goals, and high-level objectives for coordinating and guiding ocean justice activities across the Federal Government while minimizing the impacts of ocean climate inaction to ocean justice communities and those on the frontline of climate change.

The Ocean Justice Forum applauds the Biden-Harris Administration for the advancement of a set of overarching goals, principles, and practices that the federal government can adopt in order to provide long-term, sustainable benefits for people, communities, and the environment, and for incorporating many of the policy priorities identified by the frontline communities.

The new Ocean Justice Strategy establishes a vision for ocean justice that includes equitable access to the benefits of a healthy and resilient ocean; meaningful engagement of all communities in Federal ocean activities; recognition of the value of engagement with Tribal Nations, Indigenous Peoples; and Indigenous Knowledge in ocean decision-making and research; and expands and improves ocean education to build knowledge about the ocean and create a diverse and inclusive ocean workforce. In short, it is a broad outline of the Administration’s priorities for implementing more just ocean policy in government decision making.

In response, members of the Ocean Justice Forum released the following statement:

Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, Founder and Executive Director at Azul and Ocean Justice Forum steering committee member:

“The release of the Ocean Justice Strategy recognizes decades of work by ocean advocates while incorporating many priorities identified by frontline and ocean justice communities. Our ocean is the lifeblood of our planet – we must protect it to realize environmental justice, heal our waters and communities, and the sustenance and joy our ocean provides. Azul has been on the frontlines of advocating for the Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize our ocean. With this Ocean Justice Strategy, we see a strong foundation that will serve as the building blocks to addressing the issues plaguing our ocean and the communities that depend on it – as well as advancing a just 30×30 strategy and global plastics treaty.”

Colette Pichon-Battle, Vision and Initiatives Partner at Taproot Earth and Ocean Justice Forum steering committee member:

“Ocean Justice means a workforce that starts with safe, living wage, sustainable jobs that center frontline communities who have been historically and currently impacted by the climate crisis and industry. The White House Ocean Justice Strategy moves us closer to a path rooted in accountability that prioritizes people over profit. We look forward to working with the administration in ensuring its commitment to Black and Indigenous leaders and a just and equitable transition.”

Jean Flemma and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Co-Founders at Urban Ocean Lab and Ocean Justice Forum steering committee members:

“The ocean justice strategy makes clear the need for ALL federal agencies to take an equitable and just approach to ocean policy in their decision-making to ensure they are protecting the ocean and the benefits it provides for all while also alleviating the disproportionate burdens placed on ocean justice communities by past decisions. It is incumbent on those agencies to make these policies a reality.”

Dune Lankard, President and Founder at Native Conservancy:

“Our coastal Native communities depend on the ocean and the economic, spiritual and cultural benefits it provides. The White House Ocean Justice Strategy commits to ensuring that ocean policy across the federal government is equitable, effective, and informed by traditional, local and  Indigenous knowledge. We will look toward their future actions to ensure that commitment becomes a reality.”

Ebony Martin, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA:

“President Biden’s Ocean Justice Strategy provides marching orders for his administration to step up efforts to ensure our seafood is not tainted with slave labor, and to work for a Global Plastics Treaty that reduces plastic production. We will be working to make sure the Strategy translates into action.” 

Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light:

“People of faith and conscience believe that we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of Creation and to stand on the side of justice for all. We applaud the adoption of the ocean justice strategy, which makes clear the steps that must be taken in order to protect the sacred oceans and the communities that depend on them.”

Brad Sewell, Senior Director for Oceans at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):

“The communities most vulnerable to sea level rise, increasingly intense storms, and health effects from port pollution and petrochemical development should not shoulder the burden of the climate crisis. This strategy lays out the framework for agency engagement to ensure forward-thinking and equity-based policies on the future of ocean conservation and usage. Ocean justice is not just about what we do, it’s how we do it and this strategy moves us towards a future where justice is centered.”

Beth Lowell, Vice President for the United States at Oceana: 

“It is often the most vulnerable communities that suffer the greatest impacts from climate change. We celebrate the Biden administration’s commitment to ensure that these voices are heard in future government decisions, and we expect them to act on these goals. Offshore drilling, fisheries management, and reducing plastic pollution are just a few of the areas where these voices and more action are desperately needed.”  

Maraki Tamrat, EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council Member and Columbia University Kluge Scholar:

“Young people across the world are championing justice as essential to progress on ocean restoration. The White House Ocean Justice Strategy signals the necessary commitment to build an equitable and sustainable future that heals our ocean and all life connected by it. This is the future that young people are working to achieve – as reinforced by the many youth voices speaking up this week in Dubai at COP 28.”

Andres Jimenez, Executive Director at Green 2.0:

“Ensuring the most impacted communities are leading the charge in policy development is a critical component to protecting our ocean. The only way that can happen is through a deliberate effort to ensure that these communities and young people are a key part of this strategy. For the first time, the Ocean Justice Strategy makes this a priority, with a mission to develop a diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible federal ocean workforce.”

Angelo Villagomez, Senior Fellow for Conservation at Center for American Progress:

“This strategy is a historic opportunity to center the voices and needs of communities that depend on the ocean, the coasts, and the Great Lakes for their safety, health, and prosperity. The Ocean Justice Strategy will ensure that ocean conservation and management in our country is informed by Indigenous knowledge and values, and that it advances equitable and just practices.”

In September 2022, the Ocean Justice Forum (OJF) released the Ocean Justice Platform, a first-of-its-kind consensus-based policy platform – setting an ambitious and necessary vision for strengthening ocean climate policy, addressing ocean-climate injustices, and building stronger and more resilient coastal communities. The platform presents the environmental movement and policymakers with a new path — one guided by principles of equity, inclusivity, and accountability for a just transition. Earlier this year, during the Federal strategy’s public comment period, nearly 95 percent of the over 16,000 comments submitted to the Council on Environmental Quality and Office of Science and Technology Policy mentioned the Ocean Justice Forum platform.