ASSISTANT SECRETARY MEDINA: Thank you.
This is a critical moment for our ocean.
The ocean is the planet’s largest carbon sink, it supports livelihoods for billions of people, and it drives trillions of dollars in economic activity.
To realize the full potential of the blue economy now and in the future, we must embrace ocean sustainability.
Economic prosperity and environmental stewardship go hand in hand, and we must protect our ocean for the benefit of all.
The climate crisis is an ocean crisis. We need to act now against the harmful emissions that make our ocean warmer, higher, more acidic, and less productive.
At the same time, we see the ocean as a source of so many climate solutions. The United States has stepped up as a global leader in advancing ocean-based climate solutions – from decarbonizing the shipping sector through the Green Shipping Challenge to launch at COP27, to tackling ocean acidification through the OA Alliance, to growing offshore wind and nature-based solutions.
There is no higher priority than tackling the climate crisis.
The sustainable ocean economy also relies on marine protection.
Science shows that marine protected areas conserve biodiversity, replenish fish populations, safeguard the health of ocean ecosystems, and support economic activity such as fishing, tourism, and recreation.
We are looking to grow and strengthen governance of MPAs.
The United States fully supports a target of conserving or protecting 30 percent of the global ocean by 2030.
At home, President Biden has challenged us to conserve 30 percent of our own waters by 2030. At the Our Ocean Conference in Palau we announced an initiative for other countries to take similarly ambitious action in their own waters – the Ocean Conservation Pledge
Countries in the Atlantic and Pacific basins are taking concrete steps to promote and establish MPAs that will contribute to global conservation goals. We are partnering with countries in these regions to build capacity and attract sustainable finance for these critical efforts.
And on a global level we are hard at work with our partners to finalize an ambitious and effective agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction – known as BBNJ. This would create, for the first time, a coordinated and cross-sectoral approach to establishing MPAs on the high seas.
In addition, the United States is working with partners around the world to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated, or “IUU” fishing.
IUU fishing does more than jeopardize maritime security and livelihoods for law-abiding fishers and communities. It threatens ocean ecosystems and can destabilize vulnerable coastal states.
We’ve worked hard to address this challenge, but our efforts have not kept up with the malign actors in the ocean – the ones who operate far from ports and law enforcement.
While some countries have turned a blind eye to IUU fishing and its destructive consequences, the United States is doing everything possible, in concert with many international partners, to stop IUU fishing.
We need to ensure sustainable fishing in our ocean, which will improve livelihoods and empower women and men who depend on this vital resource for food and to make ends meet.
Ocean knowledge underpins our efforts. For all that we know about our ocean, there remains so much unknown.
We are working to understand our ocean better through a commitment to ocean science and technology, including through the UN Decade of Ocean Science.
We are also consulting with Tribal and Indigenous communities in order to include Indigenous and Traditional Ecological Knowledge into our policy, rule-making, and regulatory processes.
We stand at a crossroads.
One road leads to more of the same – more pollution, rising temperatures and sea levels, more extreme weather, additional loss of biodiversity, more environmental injustice, and greater insecurity.
The other road leads to a better future where we live sustainably with nature.
The decisions we make and the actions we take over the next several years will determine the health of our planet and the prosperity of future generations.