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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Closing the Next Steps Panel of Our Ocean Conference

John Kerry
   Secretary of State
Catherine A. Novelli
   Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment 
Loy Henderson Conference Room
Washington, DC
June 17, 2014


Moderator: Under Secretary Catherine Novelli

Guest Speakers:

  • Kenred Dorsett, Minister of Environment and Housing, The Bahamas
  • Ted Waitt, Founder and Board Chairman, The Waitt Foundation
  • Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, Chief of Staff to Prime Minister, Cook Islands
  • Mark Spalding, President, Ocean Foundation
  • Naoki Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility

CATHERINE A. NOVELLI, UNDER SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH, ENERGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE: As the conference has progressed, we have, I believe, inspired some announcements that weren't anticipated, and so we would like to recognize some of our participants now, who would like to make some announcements that should be quite amazing. So first, I would like to call on Kenred Dorsett, the Minister of Environment and Housing from The Bahamas. Mr. Minister.

KENRED DORSETT, MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING, THE BAHAMAS: Firstly, Mr. Secretary, let me thank you for your leadership and kind invitation to this summit. The Bahamas, as many of you may be aware, is an archipelago, comprising over 700 islands and cays, of which only 30 are inhabited. The Bahamas spans over 100,000 square miles, and 94 percent of my country is comprised of the ocean. We are truly an ocean state, where we have created a legislated sanctuary for sharks, manta rays, and turtles. Today, I am pleased to announce the formal passage of The Bahamas Protected Area Fund legislation. BPAF is a model piece of legislation, developed with wide stakeholder consultation and input, which establishes a new trust fund, dedicated to ensuring reliable and long-term sustainable funding for the management of protected areas within The Bahamas. BPAF should receive annual funding from the Regional Caribbean Biodiversity Fund. In addition, BPAF will be capitalized by funding sources within The Bahamas, such as fee mechanisms and levies, and donations from domestic and international sources. I would also like to announce that in this upcoming budget, the Government of The Bahamas has committed $2 million to fund the BPAF. (applause)

The Bahamas is certainly very proud to be the first Caribbean Challenge Initiative country to establish its protected areas fund, and the first to contribute to the endowment of that fund. Since the launch of the CCI in 2008, we have declared six additional marine protected areas. While we are proud of the increased protection provided, there are more critical marine and coastal ecosystems in need of protection. Therefore, I am also pleased to announce today that by the end of this year, 2014, my government intends to significantly expand our marine protected areas' system, taking us from the current three percent of near-shore marine protected areas to more than ten percent protection. (applause)

To facilitate this expansion, earlier this year, my government endorsed the declaration of 15 new MPAs across the country. Public consultation on the proposed boundaries of these areas began last month by my ministry, and the dialogue will also include expansion of the protected areas to 20 percent, which we have committed to do on or before 2020. Not only will my government declare new MPAs, but we will also use the marine protected areas system of The Bahamas as a catalyst for the development of a blue economy, which we truly believe will empower Bahamian communities surrounding these MPAs throughout our archipelagic chain. I thank you for allowing me this intervention, Mr. Secretary. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. I'd now like to call on Ted Waitt, the founder and board chairman of The Waitt Foundation. (applause)

TED WAITT, FOUNDER AND BOARD CHAIRMAN, THE WAITT FOUNDATION: You sure you don't want me to hold it? Okay. (laughter) Thank you, Under Secretary, for having me, and thank you Secretary Kerry for convening this event. It's action like that that's going to truly make the difference, so I commend your leadership. Since the Waitt Foundation dedicated itself towards the cause of ocean conservation about five years ago, we've granted tens of millions of dollars, primarily for the creation of large marine protected areas. I'd really like to congratulate those countries that have taken the political will, like you said, Secretary Kerry, because that's really the key to create these networks of large marine protected areas, countries like Palau, Kiribati, now The Bahamas, and now the United States as well, so I really applaud you for taking the political will to take these big steps, because as the President of Palau said, the science is clear. These networks of large marine protected areas are truly, truly a key part of the overall solution to sustainably managing our oceans. So I have three announcements to make. I'm going to try to be as quick as possible. The first announcement, when we first got started in the creation of these large marine protected areas, one of the problems was, nobody knew what percentage of the ocean was actually protected. So, working together with MCI, the Marine Conservation Institute, we created It tracks around 6,500 marine protected areas around the world right now. And if you look at it, it states there's about 1.8 percent of the ocean protected. That's almost double than when we started five years ago. It doesn't include the announcements made here today, so we look for that number to go up. So our big announcement is, we've now added Campaign Tracker to that site, so you can track campaigns for marine protected areas around the world. We wanted to be able to track not only the number of sites that are actually protected, but also how many sites are actually in the works in order to be protected. Eventually, we hope to be able to add the tools and things that it takes to help local areas create more marine protected areas, so that's, the Campaign Tracker. That was launched just recently. Go to

The next one is, one of the things we noticed in marine conservation that seemed to be a problem is collaboration amongst NGOs. We wanted to have something at small-scale fisheries, as was talked about earlier by the World Bank, in addition to these large marine protected areas. We have to manage our artisanal fisheries better. So three of our grantees got together at our annual foundation: Environmental Defense Fund, with their work in fisheries management, RARE, who has launched pride campaigns around the world and does great work locally on the ground, and the Bren School from UCSB. So those three entities got together. The Bren School combines economics with ecology and biology to provide really economically viable solutions. So the three of these got together and created an entity called Fish Forever. Fish Forever is going to take turf reserves, combined with small marine protected areas in coastal communities around the world. It's a very audacious project, that we hope to scale from around 50 sites today in Belize, Indonesia, and the Philippines, to over a thousand sites. I've currently raised around $30 million, hope to raise up to $100 million for this. It's a very aggressive thing to better manage coastal fisheries around the world. For more information about that, see somebody at the Waitt Foundation.

And the last announcement we have to make is the Waitt Institute. The Waitt Institute historically owned and managed oceanographic equipment, equipment like we use to find the black box for Air France 447. But a year ago, we changed our strategy to focus on really providing island nations with everything they need to do a full marine management plan. So we picked our first area, Barbuda. It's a small island that didn't have any marine management, had been devastated over the last few years. So we help these countries walk through everything they need to manage things better, from the science, the mapping, the community consultation, the legal work, the enforcement plan. So we're about done with Barbuda now, and we have the capacity to take on one, even two additional countries a year. For more information on that, go to And we're doing full marine management, so if there's countries that are interested in having a full marine management plan, we really act as like a consultant for you, to help you walk through the steps that you need to develop the marine management plan you need. So those are my three announcements. Thank you. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Next, we have Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, and Kevin Iro, a former professional international rugby player.

ELIZABETH WRIGHT-KOTEKA, CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRIME MINISTER, COOK ISLANDS: Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to greet you in my mother tongue--mine and Kevin's mother tongue--and say kia orana. Kia orana means "may you live on." Essentially, this is what we are doing here is trying to ensure that we will live on, on this blue planet that we have. So kia orana again.

I congratulate the Secretary of State, John Kerry, the Department of State, and the United States Government for convening this very important conference. And I thank you for the opportunity to tell you a little bit about the Cook Islands' story to better manage our bit of sea and ocean. In 2012, at the pacific leaders forum, held in the Cook Islands, the Prime Minister, the Honorable Henry Puna, announced the designation of 1.1 million square kilometers of the Cook Islands, two million square kilometers exclusive economic zone, as the Cook Islands Marine Park, an area covering the southern part of the Cook Islands, including seven inhabited islands. In making this announcement, Prime Minister Puma stated, "The marine park will provide the necessary framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests, such as tourism, fishing, deep sea mining, with conserving core biodiversity and natural assets in our ocean reefs and islands." Since this announcement, we have conducted nationwide discussions with our communities on the key elements of the marine park, such as the outlying area, use or no-use areas, taking into consideration competing interests, management arrangements, compliance, enforcement, and so forth. These consultations highlighted the enormous task that we have ahead of us. These consultations also prompted the Cook Islands Government to take several actions recently, which it is my pleasure to announce for the first time today. Firstly, commit to legislative changes, in order to operationalize the marine park. Secondly, accept the overwhelming call from our communities to extend the existing no-commercial fishing zone, from the current 12 miles around each island to 50 miles around each island. (applause) Thirdly, recognizing the tremendous support to the notion that the entire exclusive economic zone that should be the marine park, and that the northern islands must be included. The government has pledged the inclusion of the northern islands into the marine park area, within the medium-term. These commitments from our government will be positive steps towards what our people have told us that they want in the Cook Islands marine park. We are under no illusions that this will be a straightforward journey. In fact, the journey to date has been a challenging one, but more importantly, a worthwhile one, for we know that if we can pull this off, we would have created a groundbreaking plan that will harness the wealth of the sea and safeguard the ocean, like perhaps no other nation has done before. This will hopefully encourage other nations to follow. However, as we have heard yesterday and today, actions at the national level cannot have the desired impact without global support, support such as backing the Small Island Developing States' stance on the ocean's goal and the sustainable development goals in the post-2015 United Nations agenda; actions, such as control of the high seas and the exploitation of resources in these areas; agreement on ambitious targets to reach carbon emissions, and so forth. If I may, in closing, quote the Pacific Islands' author Epeli Hau��ofa in saying, "We are the sea. We are the ocean. And we must wake up to this ancient truth." I think we have heard, yesterday and today, that the Pacific is waking up to this ancient truth, and we urge the rest of the world to also take appropriate action. Kia orana.

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Next is Mark Spalding, president of the Ocean Foundation, since its founding ten years ago. Mr. Spalding.

MARK SPALDING, PRESIDENT, OCEAN FOUNDATION: Thank you very much, Under Secretary, and Mr. Secretary. As many of you already heard, we announced today the formation of a pooled fund for donors to contribute to the implementation of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network, so that it can fulfill its vision. Thank you very much (applause).

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Next is Naoki Ishii, CEO and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility.

NAOKI ISHII, CEO AND CHAIRPERSON, GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT FACILITY: Thank you. First, Secretary Kerry, thank you so much for your leadership to bring us...everybody here today. And you emphasize the importance of political will. And institution like us, international organization, I think that the duty of us is to present, or offer, that right, effective instrument to match the political will you mentioned. The problem of the ocean is its nature of global commons, or tragedy of global commons, that ocean doesn't respect man-made nature. The ocean's issue is such a multidisciplinary issue, so the solution, the effective mechanism, should be something like a platform which unite multiple nations, multiple actors including the private sector, business, and the community, CSOs, in addition to the national government or international institution like us. And you already correctly mentioned, they are having a good example already here and there. Even just I see my own portfolio that quickly two example I can refer to. The first, ABNJ, Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, which is about to be implemented with partners here today. It's basically the networking on the high sea tunas, which includes the private sector and the CSOs. Another example is in our support for Benguela Current Commission, which kind of create a legally binding, the commission across multiple nations. But, the Secretary, you are dead right, that those good example are kind of scattered, here and there, which are not yet having a significant dent to reverse this worrisome trend. So the challenge ahead of us is how to translate those good examples, the success stories, into something, the critical mass, which to make us close the threshold, so that we can have a significant impact at scale. So my commitment to everybody here is to strengthen the multi-stakeholder platform, or the framework, for the coming years. The timing is perfect, that GEF just got the record-breaking replenishment from donors that just the international world receive $460 million (U.S.)  in grant. So my commitment, our desire is to utilize these resources to strengthen, or to create a platform, a multi-stakeholder platform, so that we can meet your political will to something concrete actions, which could have a significant impact at scale. We have already have some good idea to how to work it out. We would like to work on reverse the depletion of coastal fisheries. We would like to introduce that in the right space and framework. We would like to apply, of course, the ecosystem-based approach. And we want to work to strengthen the institutions, fishery institutions. But the most important thing is that in how we can break silence, how we can bring those stakeholders together, so that the summation of those actions, collective actions, will be much more than just the sum of its part. So another important thing on this platform is that the introduction the sustainable standards throughout the supply chain, which actually requires everybody's effort in the program. So our hope is that we would like to do work with everybody, to solve the 2015 sustainability development agenda. Sri, thank you so much for promoting the GEF in your remarks. And one of our prime target is the small island states, so that now we stand ready to work with everybody in this room. Thank you so much. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you very much. We just have two more announcements. The first is from Lynne Hale, director of the Marine Initiative at the Nature Conservancy.

LYNNE HALE, DIRECTOR, MARINE INITIATIVE, NATURE CONSERVANCY: Thank you Secretary Kerry, and thank you to all the leaders for their inspiring commitments. Essential to achieving even our larger collective goal is to really change the way the world sees and values the ocean. Today, the Nature Conservancy is very proud to commit to a small step in making that change by announcing a three-year effort to map the ocean's wealth. Launched with a $3.8 million lead investment from the Lyda Hill Foundation, over the next three years, we will work with a wide range of partners, many of you who are in this room, to quantitatively describe, map, and make widely available, information about the key services that the ocean provides, so that we can collectively make better and smarter investments that support both conservation and economic development. The project will move from broad, global averages to very specific regional and local details, and making information in the language that engineers, policymakers, and others who really need to change how they make decisions can use. We do not intend - just to say it again. We do not intend, nor can we do this alone. We need to work with others and invite all of those who share our vision to work with us, as we are working with many of you through the Global Partnership for Oceans. Thank you. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you, and our last announcement is from Sir David King, the U.K. Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Climate Change.

SIR DAVID KING, U.K. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Secretary Kerry, colleagues. The U.K. Government has been playing a strong leadership role in global marine conservation, and strongly affirms the need for partnerships in science, in risk analysis, and in management, but in particular, in tackling threats at the moment to the implementation of the large-scale actions that we've heard about. We believe that climate change, together with ocean acidification, represent the greatest diplomatic challenge of our time, and I wish to embrace for a moment the small island states. Not only is the issue of ocean acidification, the loss of fisheries, the big challenge, but also a topic that hasn't been mentioned, rising sea levels. The British nation is an island nation, and we see an existential threat from climate change, and we sympathize very strongly with the position of those in the small island states. Foreign Secretary William Hague warmly welcomes the State Secretary Kerry's actions, and we are delighted to be represented here.

The U.K. Government's actions to date, if I can just run through them briefly, represent the establishment of two large-scale MPAs. The British Indian Ocean Territory was declared a no-take MPA in 2010. It covers an area of 640,000 square kilometers, and at the time, was the largest no-take marine area in the world. I'm delighted that this record is now being challenged. We are very keen to see that all of these no-take marine protection areas are declared and sustained.

Secondly, we have a sustainable-use MPA around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. This covers about one million square kilometers, of which 20,000 square kilometers is a no-take area. In addition, we provide scientific analysis in backing up the nomination of the South Orkney's MPA in the Antarctic, and we are currently working constructively with the Pitcairn Island Council, with Pew and other stakeholders to examine a sustainable marine fisheries plan for the Pitcairn Islands and the seas around them. This is, of course, only a beginning. It is...there's much, much more for all of us to do. We do need to look at both the small actions and those bigger actions that require support. But let me just quickly say, it is important for us to say that we face continuing threats to these MPAs that we are declaring. It is not an easy business to manage, to keep them free from illegal fishing, harvesting, and hunting. And I declare that openly because I think we need to discuss further how actions can be taken to prevent these illegal actions that threaten what we're trying to do to manage our oceans. And so, at this meeting, I very much welcome further discussions on how we can manage those threats. Thank you. (applause)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, ladies and gentlemen, I think we have heard some amazing, amazing commitments, very specific ones by governments, by multilaterals, by our civil society, and by individuals, and this panel can show us what the way forward can look like when we all put our collective energy together to solving a problem. And I'd like to invite back Secretary Kerry to chart our path forward, where we're going to go from here. (applause)

SECRETARY KERRY: This is our last meeting of the entire group in this room. There will be a breakout group meeting here later in the day, but this will be the last session in which everybody will be assembled in the same room at the same time. And I just want to observe that over the course of my career I’ve been to a lot of conferences, but I have to tell you I’ve never been to one where people stayed in their seats, sat as attentive and as focused as you have with as little movement and sort of breakup and large gaps in the seating. I personally am impressed by the way in which there has just been a sense of serious purpose and intent here, and I congratulate and thank all of you for that. You are the ones who have brought that sense of urgency to this effort here. I might say that by being so rigid and so firmly planted we can say with certainty that the oceans movement is a hard-ass group of folks. (Laughter and applause.)

What’s amazing, I sat there listening to the folks who felt inspired to contribute beyond what had been previously thought would occur. And so out of this conference has come more – a commitment to a combination of effort with respect to climate and oceans, but specifically focused on acidification and sea level rise and all the special efforts of these recent spontaneous announcements that you have made. And I’m particularly grateful to the minister from the Bahamas and the Bahamas initiative which is so critical, to Ted Waitt and the Waitt Foundation. I can remember meeting with Ted in San Diego a long time ago when he sort of focused and told me he was really going to put his energy and focus into the oceans, and he has done that tremendously and importantly.

The Cook Islands Prime Minister Puna, we thank you for a 50-mile zone, which just really moves people away from areas of greatest accessibility and will have a significant impact. Mark Spalding, The Ocean Foundation, and the Global Environment Facility, creating a platform for action, and Lynne Hale and Nature Conservancy, a 3.8 million investment in the Marine Initiative.

And finally are my friends from the U.K., William Hague and his representative, special representative for climate change, and the effort to work on partnerships and recognize this is indeed an enormous diplomatic challenge to bring countries together in a multilateral forum. This has been as delightful a group of committed activists, scientists, academians, NGOs, civil society, and government representatives who have come together with a serious purpose, and I think everybody deserves their mutual congratulations.

Out of this, particularly with the remarkable contribution and seriousness of purpose expressed by the Government of Norway, we have today received commitments for action over $1,450,000,000, and that is all directed to ocean (inaudible). (Applause.)

In addition to that, with some new commitments we’re soon going to be halfway to the number of countries needed to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement so that it can enter into force. And I will personally engage in efforts, and I hope others here will join, particularly my minister colleagues, in the effort to push to get that done. When we achieve that, we get a few more countries on board, we’ll be able to take an enormous step forward in preventing illegally caught catches, illegal fish catch from making it to the market.

Finally, right now only a small fraction of the world’s ocean, as we have all talked about it, is currently protected. But with the announcements that have been made here today and over the course of this conference and additional announcements at lunch, including the announcement President Obama made this morning, we’re potentially on the verge of protecting more than 3 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean. We need to do more elsewhere but that is a terrific start, and I congratulate everybody for their part in doing that. (Applause.)

We have a lot to do in a short time. There isn’t anybody here who hasn’t come here because they don’t understand the depth of this challenge. And I am so appreciative for all of you taking the time, making the commitment to be here. Our hope was and remains – and it’s something that I felt significantly in my travels both as a senator and as Secretary, I would talk to people. And you’d get a certain number of people who go to a conference in one place or another, but we haven’t often enough been able to convene all of the stakeholders that are necessary. We don’t have them all here either yet. We need to continue to push that. Because when people come together like this, there is a certainty of purpose, a certainty of understanding the challenge. And there’s a sense of unity and of breadth, scope if you will, of people taking actions ready to move that in itself is infectious, as we saw today with spontaneous combustion presenting these additional efforts. We have to continue that. And I said at the outset of this that is the purpose of this meeting.

So our team has been assembling a compilation of the best practices and of those suggestions made here for those things that need to be done in order to get this job done. And we will be putting this plan out immediately this afternoon after this conference. Everybody here can go to it immediately on It will be accessible. We will be working to promulgate it. We’ll be working to try to build a critical energy underneath it to take it to the United Nations, to take it to other international organizations that could have an impact. And we will try to build this so that this will become, in effect, the guide for the steps that we need to take in order to protect our ocean and in order to encourage other nations to sign on to do the same.

Eventually our goal is for this plan to translate into a unified global ocean policy. Now governments obviously have an important role to play. We all know that. But what is proven here by Ted and Nature Conservancy and other individual efforts here is that people, civil society, these young folks who are here who are going to be tweeting and pushing this out to social media and engaging, can begin to create a movement at colleges, universities, schools all across the world – this is something everybody can understand – and force political action by virtue of making this a voting issue where people feel that if they don’t do this they’re not going to be running a government, they’re not going to get elected. That’s how it works most effectively.

And lest any of you have any doubt about that, let me tell you something. When I first came back from Vietnam back in 1969-70, I didn’t first begin to protest the war. I first began to be involved with something called Earth Day, Earth Day 1970. And we organized. Twenty million people came out of their homes and said we don’t want to drink toxic water, we don’t want to have cancer thrust on us, we don’t want to live next to a waste dump. And guess what? Those 20 million people then focused on 12 members of the United States Congress. They were labeled the “dirty dozen,” the worst votes on the environment in Congress. And in the next election, seven of them lost. (Applause.) That sent a message up and down the spines of the survivors, who then promptly voted for the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and they created the EPA. (Applause.) We didn’t even have an Environmental Protection Agency until that happened. (Applause.)

So as we leave here, we need to remember the power of these facts and these ideas of this mission. And I just ask everybody here to think about one last thing. I will always remember the comments of President Kennedy in 1962 when he attended the World Cup – not World Cup, excuse me, the Americas Cup. (Laughter.) I have World Cup on the mind. And he talked about our connection to the sea and it’s a wonderful passage and you should all go be reminded, but I’d just remind you quickly. He talked about how each of us has this special connection to the sea because we come from the sea, and you just have to measure the amount of salt in water in the human body and in the veins in our blood, and you understand that connection. And so we leave here with a special sense of that connection, but most importantly, thanks to all of you, we leave here with a special mission, a special renewed vigor, a sense of commitment to what we have to achieve. I thank you all for being part of this effort.

We will convene again. It will be in Peru, and after that maybe back here. We will convene again.


SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’ll be in Chile instead of Peru. (laughter)

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