US - World leaders, business executives, scientists and environmental activists met last week at a two day summit to discuss sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification, writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor.
The "Our Ocean" conference organised by US Secretary of State John Kerry and held in Washington DC, USA, in order to deal with the major threats to the world's oceans.
Addressing the conference via video, President Obama re-iterated his commitment to preventing illegally caught fish entering the US marketplace and the protection of the marine environment through the expansion of US marine reserves.
Special guest at the conference, actor, environmental campaigner and founder of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Leonardo DiCaprio shared his first hand experience of witnessing marine degradation and illegal fishing with the attendees.
"I’ve learned that with each passing day, so many of our aquatic species are in jeopardy – not because of nature’s unpredictability, but because of human activity. I’ve learned about the incredibly important role our oceans play on the survival of all life on Earth, and I’ve decided to join so many people and others that are working here today to protect this vital treasure," commented Mr DiCaprio.
Calling for more control and protection of Oceans, Mr DiCaprio continued: "Unfortunately today, there’s no proper law enforcement capacity and little accountability for violating the law. It’s the Wild West on the high seas. The ocean is an under-regulated marketplace right now. Even though the ocean covers 71 per cent of our planet, less than one per cent are fully protected as marine reserves where fishing is prohibited."
"These last remaining underwater bio-gems are being destroyed because there is not proper enforcement or sufficient cooperation among governments to protect them. People who depend on these oceans’ resources for sustenance need to hear that governments are working to create strong systems of accountability for those who are destroying it. If we don’t do something to save our oceans now, it won’t be just the sharks and the dolphins that will suffer; it will be all of us including our children and our grandchildren."
Speaking during the "Political Change Makers" session, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki drew upon the reform process of the Common Fisheries Policy and its focus on sustainability, the fight against illegal fishing, the EU’s role in international fisheries governance, and the Blue Growth strategy.
Also addressing the conference, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, outlined the significant progress made to date in implementing the Government’s 2012 'Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth: An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland'.
"This event brings together some of the most important figures in the Marine sector, and places it firmly in the spotlight as an industry with a significant economic and social contribution to make. It provides us with an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved since Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (HOOW) was published and to consider how to meet future opportunities and challenges,” said Mr Coveney.
“I have spoken about the many initiatives which have flowed directly or indirectly from HOOW. Integrating our marine policy is leading to significant results already but this is not a short term strategy.The target of doubling the percentage of GDP contributed by marine sector is an ambitious one but is more than achievable. Reaching those targets will depend on public and private sectors working collectively to make our ambitions for the sector a reality. We must be bold and radical in our ambitions for the sector and open to a range of new ideas”.