The ocean covers almost three quarters of our planet and is critical to maintaining life on earth. It regulates the climate and weather, generates 50 per cent of the oxygen we breathe, and absorbs excess carbon. No matter where people live, they depend on the ocean for the food they eat and the air they breathe.
The oceans face serious challenges that threaten the sustainability of marine fisheries. Catches of many types of fish in the ocean are declining while demand continues to increase. Overfishing harms the ecology of the ocean, while also reducing the long-term potential of fish stocks to provide food and jobs for the future. Harmful fishing practices have unintended impacts on species of birds, marine mammals, sea turtles and non-target fish stocks. Learn more
An estimated 80 per cent of marine pollution originates on land – pollutants that threaten wildlife and the health and safety of humans. Nutrients, coming from sources such as agricultural runoff, sewage and wastewater discharges, create “dead zones” where fish and other marine life cannot thrive. There are an estimated 500 dead zones in the world.
Marine debris, such as trash and other solid material, enter ocean and coastal waters and threaten wildlife and the health and safety of humans. Plastics consistently make up a significant portion of all marine debris. We can combat the marine debris problem through proper collection, handling and recycling or disposal of trash, as well as by reducing consumption and packaging. Learn more
As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it becomes more acidic. Many marine organisms are unable to adapt to the new conditions. Today, the ocean is 30 per cent more acidic than it was before the Industrial Revolution. And, the chemistry of the ocean is changing ten times faster than at any other time in the past 50 million years. Learn More
In June 2014, the Department of State hosted the first “Our Ocean” Conference in Washington, D.C. Individuals, experts, practitioners, advocates, lawmakers, and the international ocean and foreign policy communities from nearly 90 countries were brought together to gather lessons learned, share the best science, offer unique perspectives, and demonstrate effective actions. Themes of the two day conference included sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification. At the end of the conference, Secretary Kerry outlined an action plan of policy goals, best practices, and benchmarks aimed at translating the initiatives developed at the conference into a unified global ocean policy.
The conference was a great success and resulted in new partnerships and initiatives valued at more than $800 million to conserve the ocean and its resources, as well as new commitments on the protection of more than 3 million square kilometers of the ocean.
For more information about the 2014 Our Ocean Conference, click here.
The United States is very excited that Chile is hosting the next Our Ocean conference on October 5-6, 2015, and is working closely with them to keep momentum from the first conference rolling.