Request for Information: Advancing Equity and Environmental Justice in the Southeast Through the Conservation and Management of Living Marine Resources
In May 2023, NMFS finalized its first-ever national Equity and Environmental Justice Strategy. The national strategy describes the path the agency will take to incorporate equity and environmental justice into the vital services we provide to all communities. Through this Request for Information, we are seeking stakeholder input to inform the operationalization of the national strategy in the Southeast Region. The public input we receive in response to the objectives and questions listed below will inform the development of a Southeast Equity and Environmental Justice Implementation Plan that is specific and responsive to the needs of underserved communities in the U.S. Caribbean, South Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico.
Verbal input will be accepted during a webinar-based listening session to be conducted in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese on Tuesday, September 28, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET (Information on how to participate will be forthcoming on the Southeast Equity and Environmental Justice Implementation Plan page).
Recorded presentations providing more information on this public comment opportunity will be made available on the Southeast Equity and Environmental Justice Implementation Plan page in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese for interested persons to listen at their convenience prior to submitting input.
When providing input, please specify if you are providing general feedback on how we can eliminate barriers or better serve underserved communities in the region, or responding to one or more of the specific national objectives and questions below:
Objective 1. Provide an empowering environment within NMFS to support multiple equity and environmental justice approaches.
1. What data and resources does NMFS need to identify the underserved communities impacted by our work and evaluate the success of our equity and environmental justice efforts?
2. What accountability structures does NMFS need to stay focused on our equity and environmental justice goals and build trust with underserved communities?
Objective 2. Ensure that our policies promote equal opportunities for all and do not create unintended inequities or unequal burdens for underserved communities.
1. How can NMFS better include equity for underserved communities in policies and plans?
2. How can existing policies and procedures be refined or revised to achieve more equitable outcomes?
3. How can NMFS design or revise policies and procedures in a way that ensures they are helpful and clear to underserved communities?
4. How can NMFS further incorporate into its policies and procedures relevant language, customs, and indigenous knowledge, consistent with statutory requirements ( e.g., best scientific information available standard under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act)?
Objective 3. Identify underserved communities and their needs, conduct collaborative research, and assess impacts of management decisions.
1. What research do we need to identify underserved communities and assess their needs?
2. How can NMFS better engage with underserved communities to identify, co-develop, and co-produce place-based research and monitoring priorities and promote opportunities for citizen science?
3. How can we reduce bias in the prioritization of NMFS' research to better serve underserved communities?
4. How can NMFS expand involvement of members of underserved communities in research and monitoring projects while ensuring protection of indigenous knowledge?
5. How can NMFS more equitably allocate research and monitoring resources to identify and characterize underserved communities, understand their needs, and use findings to effectively guide management decisions that affect them?
6. How can NMFS more equitably allocate research and monitoring resources to fisheries, habitat, and protected species science that directly impacts underserved communities?
7. How can NMFS improve our understanding of the impact of our regulatory actions on underserved communities?
8. What are best practices for working with communities to integrate indigenous knowledge into research structure, data collection, and data reporting?
9. How can NMFS better share research and monitoring results in plain language?
Objective 4. Build relationships with underserved communities to better understand their engagement preferences, and improve information sharing with all communities.
1. Are the various communication platforms and outreach activities used by NMFS effectively reaching underserved communities? Are there other preferred methods of communication?
2. How can NMFS build relationships with underserved communities that allow for two-way communication and trust?
3. What training and resources do staff need to expand NMFS' outreach and communication in underserved communities?
4. How can NMFS make its communications more accessible and understandable to a diverse audience, including underserved communities?
Objective 5. Distribute benefits equitably among communities by increasing the access to opportunities for underserved communities.
1. What barriers do underserved communities face in accessing benefits managed by NMFS?
2. Do NMFS' benefits (such as funding, fishery allocations, permits, opportunities, services, and environmental protection and restoration) equitably reach or benefit underserved communities? Consistent with applicable legal requirements, how can we expand the equity in our delivery of these benefits?
3. What accountability structures and processes are needed to ensure equitable delivery of benefits, such as data collection, on benefit recipients and analysis of that data?
4. How can we better serve underserved communities with data and tools NMFS provides to the public?
Objective 6. Enable the meaningful involvement of underserved communities in decision-making processes.
1. How can NMFS better account for the needs of underserved communities in decision-making?
2. What accountability processes and structures are needed for NMFS to assess if underserved community needs are adequately accounted for in decision-making?
3. Is the information NMFS uses to support decision-making accessible to underserved communities?
4. How can underserved communities have equitable access to participate in public meetings?
5. How can NMFS ensure that public meetings are inclusive, safe, and welcoming?
6. How can NMFS facilitate access and involvement of underserved communities during the decision-making process?
7. How can NMFS increase representation of underserved communities on Regional Fishery Management Councils and advisory bodies, including international advisory bodies?