But after Joe Biden takes office as president on January 20th, he is likely to undo some of these reverses and make important strides towards a more resilient ocean economy. “Given President-elect Biden’s legacy as vice-president and in the Senate, we are hopeful he will bring his ‘build back better’ approach to managing and protecting our ocean,” says Laura Cantral, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League. She cites the need to mitigate ocean acidification, rising sea levels and stronger storms produced by climate change as key challenges for the incoming occupant of the White House. “It will be important for our nation’s leaders—in the Congress and in the administration—to work together to address the threats to the health of our oceans.”
During the 2020 Democratic primary, Senator Elizabeth Warren outlined a Blue New Deal, a wide-ranging set of proposals towards a sustainable ocean economy. These include a US$2trn investment in US clean energy, including offshore wind, US$400bn over the next decade towards R&D in renewables, including wave power, the creation of a new Department of Agriculture research programme into aquaculture, and moves to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty and support a ban on high-seas fishing, where currently around 4% of the world’s fish are caught. Some Democrats and campaigners are avoiding the language of the Blue New Deal in the interests of “building a bipartisan consensus”, notes Jason Scorse, director of the Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. But even if badged differently, some of its signature proposals have already informed Biden’s manifesto commitments, such as the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps, whose tasks would include the restoration of coastal ecosystems—including wetlands, oyster reefs, and mangrove and kelp forests—in order to help prevent flooding and support biodiversity and fisheries.