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Agenda 21 in Fisheries; Joint Federal/State Marine Law Enforcement

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Agenda 21 is a UN resolution which outlines a global framework for managing resources, commodity consumption, and human population growth for levels that are considered sustainable.

The resolution consists of action planks for national and local government implementation, such as:

After the release of a documentary on the regulatory burden faced by the North Carolina commercial fishing industry, several viewers contacted me with input and questions about the relationship between the UN’s Agenda 21 and the plight of the fishermen. It is for this reason that I compiled some of my previously unreleased commentary footage on the global and federal role in fisheries management, as well as ongoing attempts to increase federal controls over North Carolina’s fisheries, into this short follow-up video:

“It was acknowledged that sustainable consumption and production forms one of the three overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development, together with poverty eradication and the management of natural resources in order to foster economic and social development. It was recognized that fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development. It called for all countries to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, with the developed countries taking the lead …  It also called for governments, relevant international organizations, the private sector and all major groups to play an active role in changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns.” -on Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of Agenda 21, from the UN website

More on Agenda 21: 

The United States signed onto the Agenda 21 resolution in 1992 via President Bush, but because the resolve agreement is considered voluntary and therefore not legally binding, no formal debate or vote from the US Senate was required. As a side note of interest, though, a resolution confirming US implementation of Agenda 21 action items was brought before the US House by Nancy Pelosi in the same year.

The resolution may seem unimportant since the US Senate never formally voted to enact the treaty; however, the executive branch has, essentially, assumed the authority to write law (a power once reserved to the legislative branch) through the mandates and regulations of executive agencies. The TSA is a prominent example of this – their policies were never subject to an up or down vote by Congress, yet they are enforced as though they are law. The same goes for a large number of the mandates enforced by the EPA and others.

The President of the United States is the highest authority over any executive agency; therefore, a president’s unilateral acceptance of Agenda 21 could significantly impact US policy and regulatory implementation. In fact, the year following the UN’s adoption of the resolution, President Bill Clinton formed the “President’s Council on Sustainable Development” for the very purpose of providing research and advice on how best to implement the planks of Agenda 21 from the executive.

Commercial fishermen say the impact of Agenda 21 is evidenced in current-day federal fisheries regulations implemented by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association, which exists under the executive branch as an extension of the Commerce Department. In one 2011 presentation given by Capt. Sid Preskitt on the subject of Agenda 21, Preskitt describes the “precautionary principle” that he says now impacts fisheries policy in the United States.

The precautionary principle is often thought of as “guilty until proven innocent,” and as such is considered to be incompatible with the foundation of the American republic. As it applies to fisheries, it would mean that if it is thought that an action is not sustainable and could, therefore, cause environmental harm, the burden of proof falls on the accused (fishermen) to prove that their action causes no harm rather than on the accuser to prove that the action causes harm. Preskitt describes closures that have resulted from the practice and  notes that the precautionary principle is one method of implementation cited in Agenda 21 (see article 17).

When all of this is looked at in context with an ongoing attempt from NC DMF/MFC to make North Carolina a joint law enforcement state -meaning that the NC Division of Marine Fisheries would jointly enforce both state law & state agency regulations and federal law & federal executive agency regulations on NC fisheries- we begin to see a larger picture of our state sovereignty being undermined through the federalization of NC DMF officers.

The NC DMF discussed their intention to advocate for joint law enforcement legislation for the upcoming short session as recently as the last Marine Fisheries Commission meeting, though it is noted that there is “significant opposition developing.” Commission member Mikey Daniels noted that commercial fishermen are very much opposed to the Joint Enforcement Agreement. Commission member Chuck Laughridge asked whether the NC DMF supports Joint Law Enforcement, and Louis Daniel (DMF Director) responded that the Division is in support of JEA in order to receive federal money, but acknowledges state sovereignty concerns. Chuck Laughridge then made a motion that the MFC send a letter to NC’s Governor as well as NC House & Senate leaders expressing support of Joint Law Enforcement legislation. Though the motion failed, the exchange hints at what we can expect to see during the short session.

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