A Time For Heroes
June 19, 2014
By Deb Castellana
Last week, 400 participants from 80 different nations answered US Secretary of State John Kerry’s call to come together for his Our Ocean 2014 Conference in Washington, D.C. Dr. Sylvia Earle has been honored to serve on the steering committee of Mr. Kerry’s Oceans Group, and her work over the past several years helped make the conference the success it was.
Attending were heads of state, CEOs of large corporations like Bumblebee Tuna, NGOs, foreign ministers, scientists and celebrities. They gathered to collaborate on an action plan to insure that future generations will inherit a planet capable of sustaining human life. As Earle says: “No blue; no green. No ocean; no us.”
In his opening keynote, Mr. Kerry called for the creation of a global ocean strategy. The conference focused on a trifecta of threats to the ocean – overfishing, pollution and ocean acidification.
As Secretary Kerry stated during the meeting, stakeholders in the ocean community are a pretty tough bunch, which is good because it’s going to take a long term concerted effort across many fronts to effect real change. There is an undeniable momentum now, and a collaborative atmosphere in the community with many successes to count already.
Meanwhile in New York, the UN Working Group’s BBNJ meeting is taking place at United Nations headquarters in from June 16-19. Governments are hashing out whether to launch a new agreement to conserve and protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Statements from the High Seas Alliance, IUCN, Greenpeace, WWF, and Natural Resources Defense Council are available.
World Heritage Site meetings are also ongoing for UNESCO in Doha, Qatar with lukewarm results so far on a reprimand for Australia on the globally hot issue of Great Barrier Reef Protection, particularly the issue of the Abbott Point Coal Plant.
We’d like to send a big shout-out of gratitude to Secretary of State Kerry, President Obama, His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, Leonardo DiCaprio, and everyone in the ocean community who helps the ocean movement in big and small ways every day. It’s a time for heroes – what’s your super hero skill? As Sylvia Earle says, “Now’s the sweet spot in time when we all have the opportunity to make a difference.” What an inspiration to see so many people going to bat for the ocean!
With a live feed on the State Department’s Our Ocean website, C-Span and social media, it was easy to follow the action. The State Department ran their own Thunderclap and a live Twitter #oceanchat. National Geographic, Google and Mission Blue hosted a live Google Hangout with special guest Fabien Cousteau direct from the underwater laboratory Aquarius after the conference, including a cameo appearance from Her Deepness.
The action on Tuesday was compared to a revivalist meeting, with one delegate after another standing up and making commitments of financial assistance, declaring MPAs, or instituting sustainable practices designed with the ocean in mind.
Let’s take a look at some of the announcements from last week. Any one of these would be big ocean news as a one off. Together, if they come to fruition, they will pack a real punch and give us continued hope that the tide is turning for the ocean.
- $2 billion pledged to ocean projects and causes. USAID alone pledged $170 million for capacity building in coastal nations.
- Who ponied up? Juliet Eilperin with a tally sheet of who gave what.
- And speaking of which, Leonardo DiCaprio knocked our fins off with his generosity, pledging $7 million from his foundation to ocean causes over the next two years.
- President Barack Obama proposed an expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the central Pacific by 86,000 square km, the size of India, creating the largest marine sanctuary on earth.
- President Obama addressed seafood fraud and illegal fishing and took measures that will “ensure all seafood sold in the U.S. is both sustainable and traceable, meaning all customers will know exactly who caught it, where and when.
- Secretary of State Kerry unveils Ocean Action Plan.
- End overfishing by 2020
- Reduce nutrient pollution 20% by 2025
- Reduce carbon emissions
- At least 10% of the ocean protected by 2020
Follow our social media channels and join the Mission Blue Movement so that you won’t miss a beat as these programs move forward.
Feature Photo: Courtesy of the US Department of State