“We have to keep the momentum going so that we can come together and protect our ocean. Why? Because our ocean is absolutely essential for life itself – not just the food, but the oxygen and weather cycles of the planet all depend on the ocean. ”
This quote was said by Secretary of State John Kerry at the third annual Our Oceans Conference held in Washington D.C. Representatives from all over the world attended to address issues such as the high acidity of the oceans, the millions of tons of plastic and pollutants in the oceans, and the overfishing of marine species.
Expanding Marine Protected Areas
The conference was quite a success as 136 new initiatives and $5.24 billion were pledged by participating countries related to marine conservation and cleaning up the oceans. Additionally, about 9.9 million square kilometers (3.8 million square miles) of ocean was committed to being protected. Some of the notable pledges included the United States expanding the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii by over 1 million kilometers, making it the largest protected marine area in the world. The US also committed to building a new marine monument of over 12,000 square kilometers off the coast of New England. Many other countries committed to increasing the size of their national marine protected areas or adding additional ones. Another notable marine protected area expansion was done by Ecuador on a marine area north of the Galapagos Islands that will now cover the highest concentration of sharks on the planet.
Reducing Marine Pollution
Great steps were taken on the issue of marine pollution as well. An international coalition to ban single-use plastic bags was introduced by France, Morocco, and Monaco. This would be a big step in keeping plastic out of the oceans. Other positive initiatives taken at the conference include issues related to combating illegal fishing, monitoring carbon in the oceans, and performing further research on the oceans themselves.
While all the commitments made at this conference are non-binding, leaders of the world are recognizing the importance of protecting our world’s largest ecosystem of which we depend on so greatly. These leaders will continue to honor the commitments they made and create further commitments at next year’s Our Oceans conference in Malta.
Daniel Klein, Intern