printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Welcoming Remarks at Our Ocean Conference


Remarks
John Kerry
   Secretary of State
Catherine A. Novelli
   Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment 
Loy Henderson Conference Room
Washington, DC
June 16, 2014

Share

ANNOUNCER: "Our Ocean" Conference hosted by the U.S. Department of State.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Secretary of State of the United States of America, the President of the Republic of Kiribati and the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY CATHY NOVELLI: Good morning everyone, President Tong, Secretary Kerry, Ministers, Ambassadors, and other distinguished guests, both here in the Loy Henderson Room and joining us online. I am delighted to welcome you all to Washington and to thank you for all the work that you are doing to advance the cause of ocean conservation. Participants from more than 80 countries are here today representing foreign economic and oceans ministries, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, private companies, the scientific and research communities and ordinary citizens.

This diversity reflects one of the central tenets of this conference, that the solutions to the challenges threatening our ocean, require commitments and contributions from everyone. We chose the title "Our Ocean" for this event to communicate a fact ocean scientists understand well, the water, covering two thirds of the earth's surface, is really a single interconnected global ocean. Because there is only one interconnected and interdependent ocean, pollution or unsustainable fishing in one quarter of the ocean, matters even to those of us living thousands of miles away. And while the pH of ocean water may vary slightly from one place to another, rising levels of ocean acidification threaten ocean ecology everywhere. Along with the atmosphere, our ocean is the greatest of all of our shared assets. It performs the critical role of cycling water, carbon, and nutrients throughout our planet. Millions of people depend on it for their livelihoods. But our ocean is also uniquely vulnerable to collective damage from the behavior of billions of individuals each of whom may be acting rationally from his or her point of view. Over the next two days, we will examine three critical issues for ocean health: sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification. We will review the science of the challenges we face and the way they have impacted communities around the world. Despite the real and growing challenges facing our ocean, practical and effective solutions exist at every level of our societies. There's a role for governments, and we expect some impressive announcements of new initiatives over the next two days. But there are equally important roles for civil society, private companies, philanthropic organizations and individuals, and most importantly, for collaborations between these groups. Collective action is critical and so is individual action. For, at the end of the day, it is individuals who have the power to change their behavior and the behavior of their governments.

As we planned this conference over the last few months, we have been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic support from our partners and individuals around the world. This support has bloomed online. Just a few minutes ago, the Department of State's first Thunderclap or coordinated social media burst, reached over 5.3 million people, all from individuals and organizations adding their voices to this cause. I encourage everyone here to reach out to your networks and spread the news about this conference. We look at this conference as more than a two-day event. We are committed to working together with all of you to catalyze new initiatives, raise awareness of the ocean's challenges and step by step, to advance a concrete plan on the steps we must all take to conserve the ocean.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce the inspiration and host of this conference, the 68th Secretary of State, John F. Kerry. (applause) I have to advocate for him just a little bit more before he talks. Secretary Kerry has been a passionate advocate for ocean conservation since his childhood in Massachusetts, through his 28 years in the U.S. Senate, and during his 18 months as Secretary of State. He has integrated oceans, climate, energy, and other cutting edge environmental issues into the mainstream of U.S. foreign policy like no other Secretary of State before him. With great pleasure, Secretary Kerry, the floor is yours. (applause)

JOHN F. KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Cathy, thank you very, very much. Welcome, everybody, distinguished guests all. We have many government leaders, many people, as Cathy mentioned, from foundations, from NGOs, from various interested entities. We are really delighted to have such an extraordinary expert concerned group come together to discuss this really critical issue. And I am personally very, very grateful to the leadership of our terrific Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment – it’s a big package, obviously – who has been working diligently to put this together. You can tell from the surroundings this will be interactive; there will be a lot of visual input to digest and a great deal of science to document what we are talking about here over the course of these next couple of days.

But I’m really grateful to my team here at the State Department that has worked overtime under Cathy’s leadership to help bring everybody together here today, and I thank you all for coming. I welcome you to the State Department, to the Loy Henderson Conference Room, particularly those of you who are representing countries from around the world, the private sector, civil society, academia, as well as many, many people joining us online via livestream through state.gov. And I hope many more people will join us over the course of the next two days.

As many of you know, convening a conference like this has been a priority of mine for some period of time. I really started thinking about this when I was still in the Senate and we wanted to try to pull it together. And then last year we did, and as you know, we had a political moment here in Washington – that’s polite diplomatic-ese – which prevented us from going forward at that time. But candidly, I think it’s worked for the better because it gave us more time to think about how to make this conference perhaps even more effective and how to maximize what we’re doing here.

A commitment to protecting the ocean, which we all share, has really been a priority of mine for a long time, as Cathy mentioned a moment ago, literally from the time I was growing up as a child in Massachusetts when I first dipped my toes into the mud off Woods Hole Oceanographic in that area of Buzzards Bay and the Cape and was introduced to clamming and to fishing and all of those great joys of the ocean. I have had this enormous love and respect for what the ocean means to us. I went into the Navy partly through that and I had the pleasure of crossing the Pacific both ways on a ship and passing through many different parts of the Pacific Ocean region. It’s sort of in my DNA. My mother’s family was involved way, way, way back in the early days of trade through the oceans. And indeed my father was a passionate sailor who, in his retirement, found a way to sail across the ocean several times.

So I learned very early on to appreciate this vast expanse of the ocean, so vast that three-quarters of our planet is really ocean. Someone might have called our planet Ocean, not Earth, if it was based on that, but obviously it is not. Stewardship of our ocean is not a one-person event; it’s a nation event, it’s a country event, it’s a universal requirement all across this planet. And I tried very hard when I was in the Senate as chairman of the Senate Oceans and Fisheries Subcommittee where we rewrote our Magnuson fishery laws on several different occasions, created the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary, the Coastal Zone Management Act, enforcement, flood insurance, rethinking it – all these things that have to do with development and runoff and non-point source pollution and all of the things that concern us as we come here today.

And that is the concern that I bring to this effort as Secretary of State now. The reason for that is really very, very simple. And for anyone who questions why are we here when there are so many areas of conflict and so many issues of vital concern as there are – and regrettably, because of that, I will not be at every part of this conference because we have much to do with respect to Iraq and other emergencies that we face. But no one should mistake that the protection of our oceans is a vital international security issue. It’s a vital security issue involving the movement of people, the livelihood of people, the capacity of people to exist and live where they live today. The ocean today supports the livelihoods of up to 12 percent of the world’s population. But it is also essential to maintaining the environment in which we all live. It’s responsible for recycling things like water, carbon, nutrients throughout our planet, throughout the ecosystem – “system” is an important word – so that we have air to breathe, water to drink. And it is home to literally millions of species.

Protecting our ocean is also a great necessity for global food security, given that more than 3 billion people – 50 percent of the people on this planet – in every corner of the world depend on fish as a significant source of protein. The connection between a healthy ocean and life itself for every single person on Earth cannot be overstated. And we will hear from scientists who will talk about that relationship in the course of the next hours and days.

The fact is we as human beings share nothing so completely as the ocean that covers nearly three quarters of our planet. And I remember the first time I really grasped that notion. It was in the early 1970s when the first color pictures of Earth from space were released, the famous blue marble photographs. And when you look at those images, you don’t see borders or markers separating one nation from another. You just see big masses of green and sometimes brown surrounded by blue. For me, that image shaped the realization that what has become cliched and perhaps even taken for granted – not perhaps, is taken for granted – is the degree to which we all share one planet, one ocean.

And because we share nothing so completely as our ocean, each of us also shares the responsibility to protect it. And you can look at any scripture of any religion, any life philosophy, and you will draw from it that sense of responsibility. I think most people want their children and their grandchildren to benefit from a healthy ocean the same way that we’ve been privileged to. And they want to do their part to be able to ensure that that is the case.

But here’s the problem: When anybody looks out at the ocean – we’re all sort of guilty of it one time or another – when you stand on a beach and you look out at the tide rolling in, you feel somehow that the ocean is larger than life, that it’s an endless resource impossible to destroy. So most people underestimate the enormous damage that we as human beings are inflicting on our ocean every single day. When people order seafood from a restaurant, most of the time they don’t realize that a third of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited, too much money chasing too few fish, and nearly all the rest are being fished at or near their absolute maximum sustainable level on a planet that has 6 billion people today and will rise to 9 over the next 30, 40, 50 years.

Most people aren’t aware of something called bycatch, where up to half or two thirds of the fish in a particular catch are not actually what the fisher was looking for and they’re simply thrown overboard. And when people go swimming or surfing along the coast, often they don’t realize that pollution has led to more than 500 dead zones in the ocean, areas where life simply cannot exist, and that together those dead zones add up to an area roughly the size of the state of Michigan here in the United States. When people walk through an aquarium and they see and learn about the marine world, they usually don’t realize that because of climate change, the basic chemistry of our ocean is changing faster than it has ever changed in the history of the planet. And if it continues much longer, a significant chunk of marine life may simply die out because it can no longer live, no longer survive in the ocean’s waters.

The bottom line is that most people don’t realize that if the entire world doesn’t come together to try to change course and protect the ocean from unsustainable fishing practices, unprecedented pollution, or the devastating effects of climate change, then we run the risk of fundamentally breaking entire ecosystems. And as you’ll hear throughout the course of this conference, that will translate into a serious consequence for the health and the economies and the future of all of us.

The good news is that at this point we know what we need to do to address the threats facing the ocean. It’s not a mystery. It’s not beyond our capacity. Everyone in this room is aware of the effective steps that people are taking already, both large and small around the world.

In Latin America, NGOs like Paso Pacifico are helping fishers to improve their sustainability by engaging those fishers both in monitoring their catches and in the process of selecting new marine-protected areas.

In Africa, local volunteers – volunteers – take it on themselves to collect the trash that floods from the streets to the beaches during the periods of intense rain. There’s an amazing group of volunteers in Guinea who call themselves “Les Sacs Bleus” after the blue trash bags that they use to collect the garbage, an incredible self-spontaneous combustion effort to be responsible.

In the Asia Pacific, half a dozen nations have come together with U.S. support to protect the Coral Triangle, a part of the ocean that has been called the Amazon of the seas because of its incredible biodiversity. The Coral Triangle Initiative has led to improved management of a marine area that’s almost the size of one of our states, North Dakota, and it has inspired more than 90 policies, regulations, laws, and agreements to protect the local coastal and marine resources. Here in the United States, we have taken very significant strides to end overfishing in U.S. fisheries. We’ve rebuilt a record number of fish stocks back from depleted levels, and at the same time promoted and increased the economic viability of our fisheries, trying hard to actually give meaning to the word “sustainable fisheries.”

These are just a few examples of a great deal of work that you’re all familiar with, that many of you have created that is taking place around the world. But so far, all of these efforts have only been applied on a relatively small scale and only applied in one region or another. If we want to honor – if we are going to be able to honor our shared responsibility to protect the ocean, the ad hoc approach we have today with each nation and community pursuing its own independent policy simply will not suffice. That is not how the ocean works. We’re not going to meet this challenge unless the community of nations comes together around a single, comprehensive, global ocean strategy. That is the only way that we can clean up our ocean today and make sure that it remains what it needs to be for generations to come. That is what this conference is all about.

Over the past few years, even over the past few months, there have been an encouraging number of reports, summits, meetings, even conventions convened to examine the various threats of our ocean and – are facing and potential ways to address those threats. And many of you here have been part of those meetings. I hope you have found them as valuable as we have. They’ve been instructive and they’re critical, but now is the time for us to build on this groundwork of these past years. Now is the time to build on the knowledge-base that we have created through these meetings, and that is why we have invited you here now, not just to have an important conversation, but to reach important conclusions, to try to put together a plan of action.

I want us to walk away from this conference with more than ideas. I want us to walk away from here with a plan, a plan that puts an end to overfishing through new rules based on the best available science. And may I add one of the things that Ted Stevens – Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska who teamed up with me on the Commerce Committee in the Senate – one of the things we always were fighting was getting more, better science so that we could convince fishermen and convince countries, governments of the imperative of making decisions.

Too often we hear, “Well, we don’t really see that,” or, “We don’t really feel that,” or I’d hear from captains of the boats, “When I go out and fish, I see plenty of stocks out there. There’s no reason to be restricted.” We need science, and globally we could put our heads together and our governments together and come up with both the budget and the capacity to be able to do what we need to be able to help convince people of the urgency of this.

We need a plan that requires fisheries to use gear and techniques that dramatically reduce the amount of fish and other species that are caught by accident and discarded; a plan that ends subsidies to fisheries, which only serves to promote overfishing; a plan that makes it near impossible for illegally caught fish to actually come to the market anywhere, whether you’re in Boston or Beijing or Barcelona or Brasilia or any other city that doesn’t begin with a B. (laughter) Let’s develop a plan that protects more marine habitats, and we will have an announcement regarding that. I believe President Obama will make such an announcement.

Today, less than 2 percent of our ocean is considered a marine protected area, where there are some restrictions on human activity in order to prevent contaminating the ecosystem, less than 2 percent of the entire ocean. There isn’t anybody here who doesn’t believe we can’t do better than that. So let’s start by finding a way to perhaps bring that number up to 10 percent or more as soon as possible.

And let’s develop a plan that does more to reduce the flow of plastic and other debris from entering into the ocean. Everybody’s seen that massive array of garbage in the Pacific and elsewhere. We need a plan that helps cut down the nutrient pollution, that runs off of land and is miles from the shore, and that contributes to the dead zones that I mentioned earlier. I learned about that back when I was running for president out in Iowa and Minnesota and the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and you learn about the flow of these nutrients that go down the Mississippi out into the gulf, and we have a great, big dead zone as a result.

We need to develop a plan that gives us a better understanding of the acidification effect that carbon pollution is having on our ocean, that we know that in the Antarctic, for instance, there was a regurgitation of carbon dioxide. Have we reached a saturation point? I don’t know. But I know that it’s a question that is critical to our capacity to deal with climate change and to maintain the oceans. We ought to be able to know where it’s happening, how quickly it’s happening so we can find the best way to slow it down. And we need to push harder, all of us, for a UN agreement to fight carbon pollution in the first place because the science proves that’s the only way we’ll have a chance of reducing the impact of climate change, which is one of the greatest threats facing not just our ocean, but our entire planet.

Finally we need to develop a plan that not only lays out the policies we need to protect our ocean, but that also considers how we are going to enforce those policies on a global scale. Because without enforcement, any plan we create will only take us so far. I think it was back in the ’90s, if I recall correctly, that Ted Stevens and I joined forces to take driftnet fishing to the United States. And we had become aware of literally tens of thousands of miles of monofilament netting that was dragged behind a boat that would literally strip-mine the ocean with vast proportions of the catch thrown away and clearly not sustainable.

So Senator Stevens and I managed to go to the UN. Ultimately it was banned by the UN. But guess what? There are still some rogue vessels using driftnets to strip-mine the ocean because they get more money, it’s faster, and there’s nobody out there to enforce it – no one out there to enforce it.

So we need to change this. That’s our charge here, all of us. Over the next two days, let’s put our heads together and work on a plan for how we can preserve fish stocks, manage coastlines, and protect ecosystems, a way for us to try to preserve fisheries, a way for us to come to a common understanding of our common interests and find a consensus that we could take to the UN – take this plan to the UN, take it to other international organizations. All of us begin talking the same language off the same page about the same objective, and if we make this a plan that all countries must follow by helping all of them to understand that no country can afford not to, whether you’re on the ocean or not on the ocean.

I know all of this sounds pretty ambitious. It’s meant to be. I know that some of you are probably thinking, “Well, what did I get myself into here?” But look around the room. Every one of you is here for a reason. We have government leaders from around the world at the highest levels, including three heads of state. We have experts from international organizations, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, others. We have private sector leaders who are committed to our oceans’ future, people like Chris Lischewski from Bumble Bee Foods. The best ocean scientists in the world are here. All of us can come together and each can help the other to ensure that every solution that we discuss is directly tied to the best science available.

Ask yourself: If this group can’t create a serious plan to protect the ocean for future generations, then who can and who will? We cannot afford to put this global challenge on hold for another day. It’s our ocean. It’s our responsibility. So I hope that over these next two days, we will maximize the time we are here. I am really delighted that you all came to be part of this. And I hope this will be a new beginning, a new effort to unify and to create a concerted pressure which is necessary to make a difference.

It’s now my pleasure to introduce one final speaker before we open the program up, and there’s going to be a great deal of information coming at you in short order. But President Anote Tong of Kiribati is one of the loudest voices, one of the clearest voices in the world in the call for global action to address climate change. And there’s a simple reason why he has a special interest. It is because climate change is already posing an existential threat to his country. But he’s also one of the world’s greatest advocates for the protection of the ocean well beyond the interests of his own country. Under his leadership, Kiribati has established one of the largest marine-protected areas in the world in the Phoenix Islands in the Pacific. It’s an honor to have him here to share his thoughts with us this morning.

Ladies and gentlemen, President Anote Tong. (applause)

PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KIRIBATI, ANOTE TONG: Thank you Secretary Kerry, and of course, as our gracious host today, over the next couple of days, I wish to acknowledge your contribution this morning, thank you very much for that very inspiring statement.

Excellencies, friends of the ocean, ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by greeting you, bringing the greetings from the people of Kiribati, young, old, and on whose behalf, I'm very honored to be here to address this conference.

In my country, we usually begin all formal addresses by conferring blessings on each other. So, let me do so to each and every one of you this morning. [FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

It is an honor indeed and a great pleasure for me to be a part of this summit. Let me begin at the outset by expressing my deep gratitude and appreciation, and of course, our congratulations to our host, Secretary of State, John Kerry, and through you to the government and the people of the United States, for this timely initiative and for the invitation to attend this summit on an urgent issue focused on our oceans.

The leadership and commitment in saving our oceans, and indeed our planet, is one that we, from the Pacific Region associate very closely and welcome this initiative indeed. I commend our host country's strong commitment for action against climate change, action against the blind pursuit of development, without full responsibility for its impact on our environment. This summit, I believe, is the beginning of more positive developments in this area, with strong leadership by our more developed partners. The theme of the summit, “Our Ocean”, is indeed very significant. It serves to remind us of our shared and mutual ownership of the ocean and with which comes with it the shared responsibility and our obligation to ensure the health of our ocean for our children, their children, and for future generations. As Secretary of State has said, our planet Earth is our shared home and unfortunately, the only one we have.

Ladies and gentlemen, for far too long, human activities in the name of development and our single-minded pursuit for short term gains and profits have had severe impacts on the health of our environment. These include harmful fishing practices, illegal fishing, dumping of waste in the ocean, industrial activity, which have caused excessive carbon dioxide emissions, and of course, the list goes on. In combination, these activities have greatly affected the health of our oceans and our planet and, of course, their ecosystems. These have resulted in what we see now; depletion of fishery stocks, increasing ocean acidification, coral bleaching, sea level rise, increased ocean temperatures and a change to our climate system. Never in human history has the health of our oceans and our planet Earth been so challenged.

My country, Kiribati, has often been referred to as a small island developing state, but in reality, we're a very large atoll ocean state, and my people have been custodians over centuries of the surrounding ocean of around 3.5 million square kilometers. More than twice the size of the largest U.S. state of Alaska. When I say the ocean is very much a part of our lives, our culture, and our heritage, I do, of course include, not only my fellow Pacific island nations, but also the United States of America. Kiribati and the U.S.A. share maritime boundaries with Kiribati waters strategically located as the U.S. pivot of the Pacific. Furthermore, our ocean territory hosts part of the largest remaining tuna fisheries which through commercial supply chains are linked to the United States businesses and consumers. In essence, through the oceans, Kiribati and the Pacific, has not only direct economic linkages with the United States but it's also intricately linked with the U.S. national security.

Ladies and gentlemen, yet for my country, this very same ocean and indeed the same case would apply to my colleagues in the Pacific, this very same ocean has now raised a new major survival challenge. Our people are now facing major challenges never faced before from the rising sea levels. Over the recent past, at the beginning of this year, in particular, we experienced the increasing severity of inundation and erosion of our shorelines caused by unusually high tides. In some parts of the country, whole villages have had to be relocated due to severe erosion. Food crops have been destroyed and the freshwater lens contaminated by the rise in sea levels. These are alarming new experiences for us and are not part of the normal water cycle. My friend from the Marshall Islands, during that period, declared a state of emergency.

Science and our experience on the ground, have given us ample proof that if we do not change direction, it will be to our detriment, more so, for our children and their children's children. Very sadly, the pace of global action and response to this nature calamity, nowhere near matches the degree of severity of the existential and survival challenges that sea level rise poses for our peoples and countries. Climate change, as I've said, time and time again, poses the greatest moral challenge of our time. It is about the survival of people, the survival of women, the survival of children, whole communities, cities and nations. It is not about economics, not anymore. It is not a political football, it is not about the course of who is responsible anymore, it is now, about what we must do together as responsible global citizens. No one country can do anything on its own to affect the kind of changes required to deal or to address the challenge. It is our shared ocean and our planet, and we need to work together to address these enormous challenges. As low lying atoll nations, we are the early warning system to the calamities emanating from sea level rise and the change of climate now facing the global community. We will fall but when we fall, others will follow to be on the front line, and they too I'm advised that more than 70% of the cities and human settlements around the world are on coastal areas. They will be the next on the front line.

Ladies and gentlemen, one of our major hopes of responding to climate change lie also in the very ocean which is threatening us from sea level rise. We host the vast fishery resources within our exclusive economic zones in the various countries in the Pacific. Within our waters alone in Kiribati, our fishery resources is valued at around $500 million a year, at the landed value. But this is of no value to us because at the moment, we're only receiving around 8% of this amount. But given the amount of the value of the resource available to us, if we could harness to a larger extent the value of the resource, it would provide us with the opportunity and the capacity to become more climate resilient and to be able to adapt in the way that we need to adapt in order to address this challenge. I believe that there should be more equity and justice in the business partnership within the fishing industry. Custodians of such resources should be allowed greater meaningful participation in the industry for we believe that it will only be through realizing the true value of this resource to us that we can provide the much needed financial resources for adaptation to the change in climate.

Ladies and gentlemen, we recognize the critical importance of our ocean and the resources within for the future of our people. And accordingly, with the assistance of our partners, Conservation International and New England Aquarium, we established in 2008, one of the then largest marine protected areas in our part of the world. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area or PIPA, as we call it. PIPA was inscribed on UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2010. And, it's not only the largest living laboratory where scientists can study an atoll environment and ecosystem in its pristine stages but it is also a major spawning ground for tuna. So, its closure will have a major contribution to the conservation and due to rejuvenation of fish stocks and to global food security, for us it is an investment in the future. It is also our contribution to humanity, to the conservation and the preservation of marine life, not only for us but for the global community and for the generations to come. More importantly, it indicates our strong conviction to the global community that the addressing the challenges of climate change calls for very serious commitment and sacrifice. The establishment of PIPA has not been done without sacrifices. And as a small economy, the projected initial loss in revenue weighed very significantly in our consideration but at the final analysis, we made the decision to persist with effective, sustainable strategies. I'm very happy today to announce that at this conference, that Kiribati has taken the decision to fully close all commercial fishing activities within the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, with effect from the first of January 2015. (applause)

We have not stopped there. We have also recently taken an initial step to declare the 12-mile nautical zone surrounding each of the islands in the Southern Line Islands group closed-off also from all commercial fishing activities, to allow for the marine environments surrounding these islands to remain in their current pristine conditions. (applause)

Ladies and gentlemen, this effort at conservation and sustainable management of our ocean and marine life is not only confined to Kiribati. In 2010, leaders of our region at the Pacific Islands Forum, unanimously adopted the Pacific Oceanscape. A framework for targeted set of actions needed for our region to safeguard the health of our oceans. As a region, we take our obligations as stewards of one of the greatest natural endowments in the world very seriously. Our obligation to ensure that the Pacific Ocean sustains life on this planet, not only for now, but for the days to come. Our continued commitment as a region will be reflected...is reflected in the theme of the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum meeting to be held in Palau, which is, “The Ocean, Our Life, Our Future”. Following endorsement of the Pacific Ocean Scape, other Pacific island countries also declared designated marine protected areas. The Cook Islands, in 2012, declared 1.4 million square kilometers, my friend from Palau, President Remengesau, declared all of Palau exclusive economic zone closed. Other countries have done the same. So, this is the momentum that we want to carry on.

Within the Pacific, we have a number of arrangements in place to ensure that we do the job that needs to be done. The Pacific Region, therefore, has some of the more stringent and most elaborate conservation and management arrangements and measures for this purpose, including through the Pacific Islands Forum, the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Community, the South Pacific Regional Environment Program, the Western and Central Pacific Tuna Fisheries Commission, the U.S. Multilateral Treaty, as well as a sub-regional coastal fisheries resource, a sub-regional grouping of coastal fisheries resource owners and the parties of the Nauru Agreement.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me emphasize that conservation and sustainable management efforts at the national and regional levels will be futile if such efforts are not supported and complemented at the global level. Global inaction to regulate and ensure the levels of extraction for our oceans and planet, to ensure that they are sustainable, will ultimately result in the loss of the entire ecosystems. Declaring closed areas for marine protected areas and conservation will have no meaning if the closure of these MPAs cannot be enforced. The technology to ensure effective management and protection of the oceans is not something new but it has yet to be put into effective use. Such technology will complement and enhance existing collaborative surveillance agreements necessary to ensure that our oceans, covering some two thirds of the earth's surface, is effectively monitored and protected.

Ladies and gentlemen, we urge the global community, our development partners, our distant fishing water partners, private businesses, individuals and those who can and who share the vision to also make similar sacrifices, including making contributions to the supporting the marine protected areas. It makes good financial sense to do so.

Our presence here, today, is part of the necessary steps towards joint global action, joint global commitment and joint global obligation to preserve and save our home, our one and only home. Our presence here is acknowledgment of our shared responsibility to ensure the health of our ocean and our environment. Let us not allow this momentum, let us not slow this momentum but let us continue forward, linking outcomes from this summit with the upcoming SIDS, Small Island Development States Forum in Samoa, as well as the United Nations Secretary General Climate Change Summit, later this year. The preservation of our oceans and action against climate change are global obligations towards the future survival and security of our peoples. And I speak on behalf of my fellow Pacific leaders, in stressing that they should be given exclusive focus as we shape the post-2015 development goal. We are one global community and we have a collective responsibility to ensure that planet Earth, our home, our children's home, and their children's home, continues to sustain life as we know it today. We can no longer afford to remain idle, to stand on the sideline. Let us pool our resources, our knowledge, our capacity, and our efforts to save this life source, this gift from Mother Nature. Inaction is no longer an option. Action is our obligation to our children and their children's children.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by sharing with you our traditional blessings, [FOREIGN LANGUAGE], meaning, may health, peace and prosperity be upon us all. Thank you. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Mr. President, Secretary Kerry, thank you very much for the inspirational remarks and for the amazing announcement that President Tong has made. It shows very clearly the critical role our political leaders have in driving forward action to protect our ocean.

I'm now delighted to invite to the stage three leading civil society voices on ocean conservation: Philippe Cousteau of the Voyacy Group and EarthEco International, Margaret Leinen of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Enric Sala of National Georgraphic. They will each present their thoughts on the theme, "Exploring, Understanding, and Conserving our Ocean". And, while they take the stage, the images you will see around the room are from one of the best known and most loved symbols of ocean science, the Alvin submersible, which just turned 50 years old this year. (applause)

(music playing)

♪ In the town where I was born ♪

♪ Lived a man who sailed to sea ♪

♪ And he told us of his life ♪

♪ In the land of submarines ♪

♪ So, we sailed out to the sun ♪

♪ Til we found the sea of green ♪

♪ And we lived beneath the waves ♪

♪ In our yellow submarine ♪

♪ We all live in a yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ We all live in a yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ And our friends are all aboard ♪

♪ Many more of them live next door ♪

♪ And the band begins to play ♪

♪ We all live in a yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ We all live in a yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

[Full speed ahead, Mr. Parker, full speed ahead!

Full speed over here, sir!

Action station! Action station!

Aye, aye, sir, fire!

Heaven! Heaven!]

♪ As we live a life of ease (A life of ease) ♪

♪ Everyone of us (Everyone of us) has all we need (Has all we need) ♪

♪ Sky of blue (Sky of blue) and sea of green (Sea of green) ♪

♪ In our yellow (In our yellow) submarine (Submarine, ha, ha) ♪

♪ We all live in a yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ We all live in a yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ yellow submarine ♪

♪ We all live in a yellow submarine ♪

(applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: It is now my pleasure to introduce Philippe Cousteau. Philippe is a leader in the environmental movement, an award-winning television host, producer and an author. He is also a successful social entrepreneur. In 2004, he founded EarthEco International, an NGO aimed at equipping a new generation of youth to solve environmental challenges. In 2013, he founded Voyacy Group, which brings together his efforts to help corporations and NGOs successfully implement their marketing and communications efforts. Philippe has also taken his market-oriented approach to conservation to Wall Street, where he partnered with Advisor Shares Investments to launch the Global Echo Exchange traded fund on the New York Stock Exchange. Philippe, the floor is yours. (applause)

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, VOYACY GROUP AND EARTHECHO INTERNATIONAL, UNITED STATES: Thank you Under Secretary Novelli, and, of course, thank you to Secretary Kerry, for working so hard to establish the ocean as central to global affairs. Now, I thought that this morning, it would be appropriate to open our conversation about exploration with a little trip down memory lane. A reminder of just how recently this journey began to explore and protect our ocean. So, I brought here to share with you this morning a little clip, the first few minutes of the first episode of the “Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”, from 1968. Let's watch that.

(music playing)

"The Calypso Crew and I will be undertaking a series of voyages of exploration and discovery in all the seas of the world. We will endeavor to save magnificent creatures threatened with extinction. We will study the behavior of all forms of life that thrive in the sea. We will try to trace the history of the oceans in fossil rocks dating back millions of years."

(music playing)

"From cages made of plexiglass we will film life that is sometimes serene, sometimes savage and always beautiful."

"We will explore the graveyards of the sea where sunken ships slumber in search of scientific creatures more precious than ship wrecks’ gold."

(music playing)

"Each time we dive, each time we enter the sea, we learn something new. We have never been better equipped to observe, to learn and to put our findings to scientific use. Over the years, our quest will lead us to confront the dangers and reveal the splendors of the sea."

(music playing)

(applause)

MR. COUSTEAU: 1968 wasn't that long ago. And, I always think it's nice to look back and remember where things started to inspire us to go forward. But what many people don't realize is that this iconic television series was actually preceded by two decades of work. And, you know, when my grandfather started his journey exploring the oceans in the 1940s, it actually wasn't about conservation, it was just about exploration. And, I remember growing up with the stories from him about how it took years for my father, Philippe Sr., and my grandfather, as they watched from the 1940s to the 1960s, the rapid post-war industrialization take its toll on the health of the oceans, and the shift that they evolved from pure exploration, to conservation. As my grandfather said, "For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive. In this century, he is beginning to realize that in order to survive, he must protect it." Their personal journey from explorer to conservationist is the same journey that each and every single one of us has taken in this room, each in our own unique way, and a journey that has led us here. And it is our collective exploration which has led to a wealth of knowledge, not only about the ocean but about what humans are doing to it. From sustainable fisheries and marine debris, to the impacts of carbon pollution, our understanding of the challenges facing the ocean may seem daunting but the good news is, in the words of my friend, Andreas Merkl at Ocean Conservancy, "We can fix this." But doing so, will require more than technological advances, new ways of doing business, it will require all of us to continue to elevate the ocean to its rightful place at the center of the global stage. As Secretary Kerry said earlier, the ocean is our planet. And so, our job here, is to help the world recognize the ocean is a fundamental solution to many of the greatest global challenges faced by humanity. From climate change, to food security, to providing sustained economic growth and prosperity and peace for countless millions. Every day, I have the privilege of working with young people, two of whom are represented here this morning, at EarthEcho International. I have the opportunity to film documentaries around the world on environmental issues, and I see a growing course of people who are aware of the problems facing our planet and who are yearning for a reason to hope. To know that change is possible and that they can be a part of it. They're looking to you, to the world leaders, to the scientists, to the explorers, to the dreamers, to lead the way. My father, Philippe Sr., once said, "Adventure is where you lead a full life." And I can think of no greater adventure than exploring our water planet in all of its mystery, its beauty and its wonder. And then, armed with that knowledge, to have the courage and the audacity to build a better world. Enjoy the conference. Thank you. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you Philippe for starting us off with great inspiration. I am now delighted to introduce Dr. Margaret Leinen, the director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the world's premier oceanographic research institutes. Dr. Leinen serves concurrently as Vice Chancellor for Marine Science of University of California at San Diego. Dr. Leinen is one of United States' leading ocean scientists. Her research in the areas of ocean biogeochemistry and paleo-oceanography, include the study of ocean carbon-cycling and the role of the ocean in climate. She's the President-elect of the American Geophysical Union, the largest geo-science society in the world, and has also served as the president of the oceanographic society. Dr. Leinen. (applause)

DR. LEINEN, SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY, UNITED STATES: Thank you, Under Secretary Novelli. And, thank you to Secretary Kerry for bringing us all together today.

When I first went to sea, understanding the ocean came in cruise-sized bites, we went to sea, we collected precious samples, we ran transects, we brought the data back to the lab and worked on it there. Today, we understand the ocean through observation in great gulps, from satellites, moorings, drifting systems. And, we're going to hear a lot of concern over the next two days about fisheries, acidification and ocean pollution. But the key to these and our understanding of the ocean starts with observation. And, for that, we have an incredible success story. I'd like to give you a couple of examples of both high-tech and low-tech observation at global scales and very intimate scales. And, just to contrast how far we've come, the lines that you see on these maps are the transect lines of a major international experiment, the World Ocean Circulation Experiment, that started at sea in 1990, and wanted to get a snap shot of the physical ocean in as short a time as possible. To fill out the work here, took eight years, hundreds of cruises, tens of millions of dollars. In contrast, today, we often study the ocean with small drifting buoys, like the Argo floats that you see here, deployed from ships, they sink in to the ocean, go down to about 2,000 meters, measure salinity, temperature, oxygen, position, depth, and then come back up to the surface and telemeter that data back to us in our laboratories. These floats were developed by the academic community with funding from NOAA, but subsequently, 30 nations have contributed floats to populate the system, and the map here shows the population of those floats from 2000 until today. Thirty-five hundred moorings, drifting buoys, 2,000 meters of water, we now get more measurements from the Argo system in one month than we did from an entire eight years of WOCE data. Incredible success story in our ability to observe the ocean. And, from this set of measurements, we've been able to quantify the warming of the ocean and also show how its salinity has been changing.

Corals are a different kind of story. We know that coral reefs, important nurseries for fisheries, important habitat, are under threat from acidification, from warming, from pollution, from disease, and from physical disruption. These important habitats require a more personal approach, a more intimate approach for observation. And, yet, here some of the most exciting things are coming from the commercial community. Small, inexpensive cameras, developed for the recreation community, the GoPro cameras, are used now to put together all of those photos with computer - using computers to develop imagery like this, from a reef in Palau, to be able to go back to the lab and study the reef in exquisite detail. Now, imagine being able to do that on a regular basis, with scientists, with citizen scientists, to be able to look at this area as it changes with respect to different events.

We've now gotten used to being able to look at the ocean from satellites, this is sea surface temperature data, from 1996 to 1998, through which there was a major El Nin͂o in the Pacific Ocean, followed by the cool phase, the La Nin͂a. Fifty years ago, we couldn't even dream of being able to study the ocean in this way, and yet now, we can look at a phenomenon that covers the entire half of the globe, look at it in detail, and understand how it evolves and what happens with it.

On the screen, you see a movie from an underwater microscope. The field of view is two and a half millimeters, those are two corals, two different species that never occur next to each other, and you're seeing why. The coral on the left, has just everted its digestive organ and is pouring caustic digestive enzymes all over the coral on the right. That's why they don't occur together. These remarkable technologies give us insight into things we could never observe otherwise, new ways to observe the ocean.

And, finally, at even smaller scales, this is a bacterium, pelagibacter. It's the most abundant organism in the ocean, and, therefore, probably the most abundant organism on earth. We didn't even know it existed in 2000. And, we didn't find it in a trawl or even by looking at a drop of water through a microscope, we found it by its genetic footprint in a bulk water sample from the Sargasso Sea. Fifty percent of the cells in the surface temperate ocean are pelagibacter. And it has an outsized influence on the ocean because it's a very efficient recycler of organic carbon. One of the major themes or one of the major components of the carbon cycle in the ocean.

So, from spacial scales of the globe, to these intimate scales of the ocean, our ability to observe is key to our ability to understand and key to our ability to provide answers to the challenges we're going to hear over the next two days. Thank you. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you Dr. Leinen for showing us how cool science can be.

I'm now privileged to introduce our final ignite speaker, Dr. Enric Sala. Enric is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, actively engaged in exploration, research and communications to advance ocean conservation. He is currently leading the National Geographic's “Pristine Seas" project, an exploration, research and media initiative with the goal of finding, surveying and helping protect the last wild places in the ocean. In the last five years, “Pristine Seas” and their partners, have inspired leaders to protect over 450,000 square kilometers of ocean in five countries. Enric was a 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum and won the 2013 Research Award of the Spanish Geographical Society, as well as the 2013 Lowell Thomas Award of the Explorer's Club. Enric. (applause)

ENRIC SALA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Thank you. Mon Sen͂or, your Excellencies, Mr. Secretary, dear friends, queridos amigos. Thank you, Secretary Kerry, for organizing this ocean conference and inviting me to give this keynote. And, I'm not just speaking for myself but of all of those here and in the field who make ocean conservation their life purpose. For all of us have witnessed dramatic changes in the ocean during our lifetimes. In my case, growing-up on the Mediterranean coast of Spain in the 70s and watching Jacques Cousteau's documentaries, I was saddened by the loss of the large and abundant fish that Cousteau showed us when he was filming in the 40s and 50s. And, how many of you have a similar story of loss? How many of you have seen the ocean now poorer than the ocean of your childhood? Raise your hands. And Secretary Kerry already reminded us what we have lost because of over fishing, pollution and the emerging threats of ocean warming and acidification.

But today I want to show you what we have found, what I have seen in places that are remote and have not been affected by human activities. Like Kiribati's Southern Line Islands, thank you Mr. President, for making a great step in creating a marine reserve along the Southern Line Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands. Diving in these places is like going back in time, to an ocean with crystal clear water, full of large predators, and healthy corals. And, these reefs, these pristine reefs, scientific studies show us, are not only healthy but also more resilient to the impacts of global warming. So, the question we need to ask ourselves is quite simple, "How can we move ocean ecosystems closer to a state that is healthy and more resilient?" The solutions are many because so are the problems. We need to manage our fisheries better, cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce pollution. These are clear answers and while we need to tackle them, they will take time to have an effect. But there are steps that we can take right now, that will have immediate benefits. We can create, as Secretary said, more marine protected areas, in particular, marine reserves that are close to fishing and extraction of marine resources. In the `90s, I came back to the Mediterranean coast of Spain, and I dived in a marine reserve that had been protected for a few years. All the fish - I still remember that first dive - all the large fish that were absent from the ocean of my childhood, were right there, in this reserve, like this big grouper. And I met a friend of mine who became a fisherman, and he told me that he could not be a fisherman if it weren't for the reserve. Inside the reserve there were so many fish that they spilled over, many of them spilled over and helped to replenish the local fisheries around. And other people I knew, developed thriving eco-tourism businesses, creating hundreds of jobs, and bringing 20 times more income than fishing to the local economy. Now think of the, and I know that many of you, including Prince Albert, have similar stories, have experienced personally the benefits of marine reserves that are well managed. And think of the ocean, most of the ocean, as a bank account, where everybody withdraws, but nobody makes a deposit. Now, marine reserves are savings accounts with a principal set aside that produces interest that we can enjoy. And protecting these precious resources is not a technical problem after all. You know, the science is clear and so are the economic benefits. What we need now is political will. Scientists can only do so much. Conservation organizations can only do so much. And the public, most people don't know how bad it is, and when they find out, they don't know what to do. So, your leadership will literally make a world of a difference in working to create more marine reserves. You, leaders in this room, and all around the world, have the authority to make this happen. We know what the benefits are because the more healthy and resilient the ocean will be, the more the ocean will continue to provide these goods and services that makes us healthier and richer. Thank you very much. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you so much to Enric, Margaret, and Philippe for just getting us going with such fantastic presentations.

We're a little bit behind schedule, so we are going to take a break now and if you can please be back here promptly at 11:10, so that we can try to get back on schedule and while you're breaking, I encourage you to check out the exhibitions and displays that are in the courtyard, there's a lot of hands-on things out there. So, we'll see you back here at 11:10. Thank you.



Back to Top
Sign-in

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.