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Thank you, Your Excellency.  Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, good morning.

I want to commend Portugal and Kenya for everything your countries are doing to mobilize support for our ocean.

This is a critical moment for our ocean. Yet, as we gather here today, none of us can ignore the threat to the rules-based international order that Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine presents. We are gathering under the auspices of the UN, a rule-based structure. Everything we do here relies on the rule of law.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked and unjustifiable.

We join others’ urgent plea for Russia to immediately halt its attacks, facilitate the unhindered flow of humanitarian aid to those in need, grant safe passage to fleeing civilians, and withdraw all its military forces from Ukraine.

While Russia’s actions in Ukraine are reprehensible, we cannot and should not allow this heinous situation to impede our important work this week. Lives are at stake. And our ocean touches every aspect of our lives, from the air we breathe to the food we eat.

Just over two months ago, many of us were in Palau for the seventh Our Ocean Conference, where more than 70 nations joined together—in the middle of the Pacific—to make more than 400 commitments valued at more than $16 billion.  We look forward to Panama and Greece hosting the ninth and tenth Our Ocean Conference.

Let’s keep this momentum going.

First, we need to realize that no conversation about the ocean is about the ocean alone. It’s about climate.  The climate crisis is an ocean crisis.  Harmful emissions are making our ocean warmer, more acidic, less productive, and are driving rising sea levels.  We cannot solve the ocean crisis without dealing with emissions. The connection is unavoidable and critical.

At the same time, the ocean is a source of climate solutions that can help keep the 1.5-degree goal within reach and improve global climate resilience.

For example, we need to spur the transition to green shipping.  It’s increasingly known that if shipping were a “country,” it would be the eighth largest emitter. In May, the United States and Norway announced a Green Shipping Challenge for COP27 to help put the sector on a pathway this decade toward full decarbonization no later than 2050.

Ten economies supported the Challenge during the Major Economies Forum this month, and we encourage others to join.

We also need to scale up offshore renewable energy.  The United States has a goal to deploy at least 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, and we encourage others to develop similar targets.

And we need to conserve and protect the coastal and marine ecosystems that store carbon and protect our coastlines—and strengthen governance of marine protected areas.

At the Our Ocean Conference, we announced an Ocean Conservation Pledge that encourages countries to conserve at least 30 percent of waters under their respective jurisdictions by 2030.

We call on countries to join.  Because we cannot reach the goal to conserve or protect 30 percent of the global ocean without action at home.

Second, we must finalize an ambitious and effective agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction – which would create, for the first time, a coordinated and cross-sectoral approach to establishing high seas marine protected areas.

Third, we must stop the reckless practice of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing.

We have no prayer of achieving SDG 14 as long as entire fleets of vessels continue to operate with impunity.  One country alone has thousands of vessels fishing illegally.

SDG 14 compels us, and I quote, to “Conserve and Sustainably Use Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development.” We are not conserving. We are not sustainably using.

More than 3 billion people depend on fish as a key source of animal protein, and growth of consumption of fish outpaces that of all terrestrial meat combined.

But IUU fishing is damaging our ocean, undermining maritime security, and endangering the law-abiding fishers and communities.

Over one-third of fish stocks are overfished, and the FAO estimates one in every five fish caught originates from IUU fishing.

We are allowing vessels, knowingly sanctioned by their governments, to follow a policy of IUU fishing. This violates the laws of nature and common sense.

We need to promote transparency and data sharing to understand the full complexity of IUU fishing globally, both in the high seas and in exclusive economic zones.

That is why President Biden signed a new National Security Memorandum setting out how the U.S. government will tackle IUU fishing and its associated criminal activities, such as the use of forced labor in the seafood supply chain.

If we are going to succeed, we must work together internationally. Together with the UK and Canada, we are launching the IUU Fishing Action Alliance to increase ambition, momentum, and, most importantly, action, in the fight against IUU fishing.

This is a unique opportunity to bring together those who are leading the fight against IUU fishing – countries, organizations, and stakeholders alike – to pledge to take urgent action to improve the monitoring, control, and surveillance of fisheries, increase transparency in fishing fleets and in the seafood market, and build new partnerships to close the net on bad actors.

We call on all nations to become members of this Alliance and to join us in upholding the law.

Is it any wonder when our citizens lose faith in governance when we fail to back our words with action.  We cannot come to conferences and discuss sustainable fishing—and then turn around and knowingly and grotesquely exploit living resources.

Fourth, this must be the moment that we advance agreement on plastic pollution at every level.  All of us have seen the pictures of conglomerated garbage in the Pacific Ocean.  And the problem is only increasing.

Human beings ingest on average one credit card worth of plastic per week.

The U.N. mandate that was just decided at UNEA 5.2–to launch multilateral negotiations on a global and legally binding agreement—is more than welcome. And it has to be translated into major plastic reductions. This must be one of the highest priorities of the U.N. system.

What this conference has proven is that we can make progress, but we’re not doing it fast enough. We all have to redouble our efforts to connect people to how solutions to all of these issues creates a safer, healthier world for future generations. That’s the only way we live up to our responsibilities.

You are the leaders and pioneers. Every one of these problems is human-created—and solving them is a matter of will power. We can win this battle.

By the next ocean conference, we must be in a position to say that we made considerable progress.

U.S. Department of State

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