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Thank you for the kind introduction.  I am so honored to join this summit of youth leaders as you close out an incredible three days.

My name is Maxine Burkett, and I am the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Fisheries, and Polar Affairs.

Prior to this position, I was a professor of climate law and ocean and coastal law, so my most recent experience is engaging directly with the next generation of ocean and environment leaders.  It is such a joy for me to speak at the Youth Leadership Summit on the eve of Our Ocean.

I am so inspired every time young people come together – not only to talk, but to take action – with transformational ideas to restore and protect our ocean.

I know you all will hold your own exciting pitch competition later today.  I am excited to hear about the all the innovations our young leaders are working on.

Following that, the next two days here in Panama will see pledges of literally hundreds of actions worth billions of dollars’ to help protect our ocean.

Actions to mitigate climate change, address marine pollution, support sustainable blue economies and sustainable fisheries, protect maritime security, and promote marine protection through marine protected areas.

All of these issues – and many more – fall within my directorate at the State Department.

There is so much work going on within the State Department and across the U.S. Government on all these fronts, and I look forward to chatting with you all about this important work.

Let me focus for now on the priorities the State Department is focused on this week at Our Ocean.

Top of mind are the ongoing negotiations this week and last at the UN in New York towards concluding a new agreement to protect high seas biodiversity.

Concluding BBNJ negotiations in the current session is a top U.S. priority, and we will participate in a ministerial-level event later today that we hope will add momentum to negotiators in New York to carry BBNJ over the finish line this week.

The United States will also demonstrate its steadfast commitment to combating the climate crisis here at Our Ocean.  As Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has said, “you can’t solve the climate crisis without the ocean”, and we will demonstrate our steadfast commitment to that goal this week, including through a side event on green shipping hosted by Secretary Kerry.

Another priority we will focus on this week is illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.  Several events will augment the sustainable fisheries panel here at OOC to highlight efforts to combat IUU fishing and identify new opportunities for the IUU Fishing Action Alliance, which the United States helped launch with the UK and Canada at the UN Ocean Conference last year.

In addition, our high-level delegation will be keenly focused on highlighting U.S. actions to support governments in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador, in combatting IUU fishing in the region through the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, or CMAR.

The United States is also focused heavily on the 30 by 30 goal.  Toward that end we launched the Ocean Conservation Pledge at last year’s Our Ocean Conference, and we look forward this week to taking stock along with our fellow Ocean Conservation Pledge endorser countries of our collective efforts toward domestic 30 by 30 goals as well as opportunities for action toward the global 30 by 30.

Marine pollution is another area of high importance to the United States, and I will be moderating the OOC panel on Marine Pollution tomorrow.

Of course, this is just a snapshot.  I am looking forward to an exciting week of activities aimed at catalyzing action toward all the action areas on which the Our Ocean Conference focuses.

And what better way to start my time than spending it with the future of ocean action – the people in this room.

I encourage you to continue building your networks through this last day of this summit, the next two days of Our Ocean, and beyond.

And most importantly, I invite you to work together, as this planet is all of ours to take care of.

Thank you again for having me, and I look forward to meeting some of you in just a bit.

U.S. Department of State

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