This week Secretary of State John Kerry convened the State Department’s first “Our Ocean” conference to focus on domestic and international ocean protection issues that took bold action right out of the gate.
The two day conference was attended by Heads of State, Foreign Ministers, policy makers, environmentalists, scientists and entrepreneurs from nearly 90 countries to start developing strategies for protecting the ocean from marine pollution, acidification and overfishing.
The conference proved to be more than just talk as a number of bold announcements were made during the course of the two days.
Leonardo DiCaprio joined the conference to give an impassioned plea for strong actions to protect our oceans and pledged $7 million dollars towards ocean conservation from his foundation.
By the end of the two days over $800 million from government and private sources was committed to conserve ocean resources for future generations. Some would say it was a love fest.
A number of new protected areas were also announced. The Country of Palau announced that they are turning their entire EEZ into a marine protected area with 80% fully protected in a marine reserve and the other areas designated for local and tourism fishing. The Cook Islands and the Bahamas also annouced increased marine protected areas.
In all, participants announced commitments for the protection of more than 3 million square kilometers of the ocean – an area about 1/3 the size of the United States.
In his closing remarks, Secretary Kerry outlined an action plan of policy goals and urged those at the conference to help him develop a unified global ocean policy. You cand find a summary of the Our Ocean Initiatives here.
In addition, Obama also announced a new comprehensive program aimed at deterring illegal fishing, addressing seafood fraud and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the U.S. marketplace. Here's a fact sheet on actions the Obama adminstration is taking to protect oceans and coasts.
Unlike many conference where problems are urgently stated but the solutions proposed don't seem to match the scale of the challenges, this conference definitely started off with bold actions and generated a lot of enthusiam for more ocean protection around the globe.