Good afternoon. I want to thank Ambassador Green for welcoming us here today to the Wilson Center, especially those of us whom you are hosting here in person.
I’ve participated in numerous events at the Wilson Center. I deeply appreciate the important role it plays in facilitating discussions such as these.
To my friends in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama, thank you all for participating.
We’ve invited you here today for a “first of its kind” discussion on how we can better partner to enhance marine protection and address the challenges of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to meet with many of you to discuss the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, or CMAR, including during my recent visits to Panama and Costa Rica.
The more I learn about this great initiative, the more I want to support it however we can.
To my colleagues from across the U.S. government, thank you also for joining me here today.
The richness of CMAR’s marine resources, and its socioeconomic benefits and cultural importance in the eastern tropical pacific are incalculable.
We should congratulate the governments of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama for developing an enduring and ambitious vision for the conservation and management of these resources.
However, if this vision is to succeed, we must have a clear-eyed view of the challenges we face, and we must marshal all the resources at our disposal – and fortunately there are many.
One of the key challenges in the region is illegal, unreported, and unregulated, or IUU, fishing.
Combatting IUU fishing in CMAR is not just a conservation issue. IUU fishing in this region has serious economic, food security, and national security implications.
We recognize that fisheries provide food and employment for millions of people in the region, and that it is an important source of your national revenue.
We also know that fishing vessels are multi-purpose platforms – they can engage in activities other than fishing, including trafficking of drugs, arms, and people.
So, for these reasons, we urgently need a cross-sector response, including multi-mission maritime forces.
Each of our governments must meet the IUU challenge with the level of political will and commitment that we would bring to any other security threat.
We know that the solution for IUU fishing – strong maritime governance – must include science-based management for the fisheries sector, robust monitoring, and surveillance to detect illegal activity, and enforcement and prosecution to hold rule-breakers accountable.
Strengthening marine governance to counter IUU fishing in the region will require a lot of collaboration.
It will require collaboration among your four governments, and the various agencies within them with jurisdiction, including your ministries of environment, fisheries, and defense.
It will also require collaboration among the many partners with interests in the region, including many united states government agencies. For example, here today are representatives from NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Maritime Intelligence Integration Office, and our Department of Defense.
And it will require collaboration with other governments, and with non-governmental organizations that are engaged in the region, too, many of which are here today as observers. (And I would like to thank them for attending.)
But how can we collaborate? Toward what end? At the end of our discussion today, I hope we can agree to a process for answering these key questions.
Let us launch a dialogue series inviting representatives of each government agency represented here and key partners. Through this dialogue series, let’s see if we can develop a plan for more effective collaboration on IUU. And let’s plan to get back together at the Our Ocean Conference in Panama in March of next year to take stock of our where we are.
Last year, your presidents signed the Glasgow Declaration, announcing before the whole world your governments’ commitment to the protection and sustainable use of CMAR. The United States stands with you today to help you meet this commitment. Let us show the world how we can work together to create strong governance in the Eastern Tropical Pacific that effectively counters this intolerable threat to environmental, economic, food and national security in our region.
Now I would like to turn to our guests from Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica.
As the stewards of CMAR, we would like to hear from you today:
How you define successful marine protection in your country and in the region?
What are the greatest obstacles you face in trying to achieve this success?
And how can we work together over the short- and long-term to overcome those obstacles and achieve successful marine protection in both your countries individually and in the region as a whole?