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Thanks to all of you for taking the time to meet to discuss plastic pollution and marine conservation.

Protecting our ocean is a priority for the United States, and I am interested to hear from you about your projects, priorities, and challenges.  And, of course, advice is welcome.

You all know that that protecting the ocean is critical, but it still merits saying, even amongst ourselves:  The work we are doing to protect the oceans is of dramatic importance that will define the future of our planet.  The ocean sustains all life on Earth, providing food and livelihoods for billions of people and regulating our climate and weather.  Hundreds of thousands of marine species contribute to the biodiversity of its ecosystems.  You know this all too well.

Let me start the conversation by briefly sharing some of what the United States is doing to protect the ocean.

Specifically, I’ll mention our efforts on sustainable fisheries and combatting IUU fishing, establishing marine protected areas, and addressing plastic pollution.

A key foundation of marine sustainability is ensuring sustainable fisheries through science-based fisheries governance.

This means dealing with illegal, unreported, and unregulated – or IUU – fishing.

The State Department is working to end IUU fishing by collaborating with our partners both in governments and civil society, like the participants in this roundtable, to improve fisheries and ocean governance, support enforcement efforts, enable productive information-sharing, and raise ambition to end IUU fishing globally.

That is why we established the IUU Fishing Action Alliance last year.  The Alliance, which continues to add new members, is working to increase transparency of the entire seafood supply chain as well as activities of individual fishing boats on the water.

We are also advocating for strengthening and expanding marine protected areas, or MPAs, both on the high seas and inside exclusive economic zones.  Although thousands of MPAs have been set up around the world, they cover just a fraction of the ocean and vary widely in levels of protection and enforcement.

The United States is working to add and expand MPAs in U.S. coastal waters as part of our own domestic 30×30 effort.  We are well on our way to accomplishing that goal, on land and in our coastal waters.

To encourage other nations to do the same, we launched the Ocean Conservation Pledge at the Our Ocean Conference in 2022.  The pledge commits countries to conserve or protect at least 30 percent of the ocean under a country’s jurisdiction.

All this syncs with the Global Biodiversity Framework, which calls for designation of 30% of the earth’s land and waters by 2030.  Reaching this target will require ambitious action within each country’s own land and waters.

Here in Thailand, your government, along with NGOs, has been working to protect coastal and marine areas.  Thailand should be applauded for its national marine parks, mangrove reserves, and marine fishery sanctuaries, all of which play important roles in protecting critical marine biodiversity.  Of course, we hope you will do even more as we work to achieve our global 30×30 goal.

We need to work together to find incentives that help support the durability of conservation efforts, including new management measures and sustainable finance.  These will help ensure that MPAs are sustainable for the long-term.

But the challenges to marine sustainability do not end there.

Plastic pollution is a global crisis for the ocean.  You all have seen firsthand the impact of plastic pollution, poisoning marine life, degrading habitats, and literally strangling our most treasured species – it is the silent killer of our ocean.

This of course also has a harmful impact on marine tourism, which I know is very important to Thailand.

Working with the international community, including Thailand, we launched negotiations on a global agreement to combat plastic pollution and aim to finalize the text by the end of 2024.  Quite a lot remains to be done, but the negotiators are working hard to get to the finish line.

We appreciate the work Thailand is undertaking through its Roadmap on Plastic Waste Management and other efforts to address this devastating, global problem.  The United States also is taking additional actions to combat plastic pollution.

The US government is developing our own national action plan to combat plastic pollution in the United States.  We are also working with a number of developing countries to build their capacity to make and implement ambitious commitments to reduce plastic waste.  And we are trying to build stakeholder support at home and abroad to take action on plastic pollution.

An important effort will be to involve the private sector and other non-government actors, as we will need innovation and investment to truly address the problem of plastic pollution.

We are also working to reduce the amount of abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear in the ocean – 20% of ocean plastic pollution comes from lost and discarded fishing gear.  The United States is proud to be a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, working to track and remove this debris from the ocean.  We know there is active involvement from NGOs, like WWF, and we encourage governments and other entities to join this cause.

To conclude, the stakes could not be higher, and what happens in Thailand matters.  It is time for the world to leverage investment, innovation, and global action to make real progress on all these issues.  I would love to hear your views and ideas.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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