The Blog Aquatic » state department News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:48:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Modest Pledge Makes a Big Difference for Ocean Acidification Research and Collaboration Wed, 25 Jun 2014 21:30:16 +0000 Sarah Cooley  

The right-hand end of the long, low pinkish building across the harbor houses the International Atomic Energy Agency Laboratory in La Condamine, Monaco, which hosts the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre.

Despite this week’s excited headlines about ocean research and conservation during Secretary Kerry’s “Our Oceans” conference, you still might have missed Prince Albert of Monaco’s Monday announcement that the U.S. State Department and Department of Energy have pledged a total of $640,000 to the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC), based at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) Monaco lab.

This is great news for ocean acidification research and decision-making around the world. The OA-ICC engages scientists in international collaborative research, education, and advice to policymakers. For example, the OA-ICC and its partners have put out several informational brochures for the public in many languages about ocean acidification, and OA-ICC-affiliated scientists have presented at high-level international events like this week’s “Our Oceans” conference and the past five sessions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties. But the OA-ICC’s best known activity among specialists is their news stream, which is a thoughtfully-curated daily feed (available by email, Twitter, or RSS) about ocean acidification news stories, research outcomes, opportunities, and educational materials. The OA-ICC gets a lot done for a small price tag.

The State Department’s support will allow researchers and policymakers to continue to study ocean acidification globally and find meaningful solutions for people and communities impacted. We thank Secretary Kerry, HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Energy, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Principality of Monaco for their continued support of ocean acidification research and collaboration at the international level.

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World Leaders Talk Problems and Solutions at the Our Ocean Conference Thu, 19 Jun 2014 20:53:37 +0000 Brett Nolan

Photo: Ocean Conservancy

Secretary of State John Kerry recently hosted the Our Ocean Conference at the Department of State earlier this week. Secretary Kerry invited world leaders, scientists, activists, and ocean lovers to come together to learn more about overfishing, marine debris and ocean acidification. The conference didn’t just focus on the problems of today. Governments, nonprofits and private businesses all offered solutions for tomorrow.

Ocean Conservancy was honored to attend and participate in the conference. Andreas Merkl, our president and CEO, spoke on the panel about marine debris. He echoed the threats plastic poses to marine life and how we can work together to make our seas trash free. Alexis Valauri-Orton, an intern for our ocean acidification program, presented on her travels and how ocean acidification could potentially affect coastal communities all over the world. And I was lucky enough to live tweet all the excitement from the front row of the main room! Below are the major takeaways from the Our Ocean Conference.

The Problems

“It’s our ocean. It’s our responsibility,” said Secretary Kerry when he opened the Conference. It’s a responsibility we haven’t been handling very well. More than three billion people depend on seafood as a major source of protein. However, certain critical species aren’t being fished sustainably. They’re being fished at maximum capacity or being overfished entirely. Bycatch—fish caught unintentionally by fisherman and often discarded—puts threatened and endangered species at further risk.  Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing doesn’t just threaten marine species. It endangers food security for billions of people.

Roughly 80 percent of ocean trash originates on land and the bulk of that is made up of plastic. Trash can be swept into ocean currents and end up in areas with high concentrations of plastics called gyres. The plastic threat goes even deeper than what we can see. Plastic degrades into micro pieces where it can be accidentally consumed by marine life and seabirds.

The chemistry of our ocean is changing. It is absorbing excess amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This phenomenon is acidifying ocean water. Ocean acidification threatens shellfish, coral and other marine species. An acidifying ocean’s impact doesn’t stop there though. People whose livelihoods depend on shellfish and tourism are at risk of losing everything due to ocean acidification.

The Solutions

It’s clear that inaction is not an option. Luckily, this conference seems to be a catalyst for ocean change. More than $1.8 billion was promised from various attendees to protect the ocean.

President Barack Obama promised to take steps to create a marine protected area bigger than the state of Alaska in the Pacific Ocean. The federal government will work with stakeholders to develop the exact boundaries, but the area will focus around expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. This is expected to protect threatened sea turtles and two dozen types of marine mammals. President Obama also tasked federal agencies to come up with a comprehensive plan to combat illegal fishing.

The United States pledged an investment of more than $9 million over three years in ocean acidification research.

Borge Brende, the foreign minister of Norway, pledged more than $150 million to sustainable fishing around the world on behalf of his country.

Kenred Dorsett from The Bahamas pledged that his country will expand their marine protected areas to cover at least 10 percent of its near-shore marine environment.

Actor and environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio, promised to invest $7 million for ocean conservation efforts through his foundation.

Foreign minister of Chile, Hugo Munoz, invited the attendees of the Our Ocean Conference 2014 to his country for next year’s global ocean conference.

There’s even more YOU can do though. You can help by pledging to the skip the straw or by volunteering to clean up your local beaches and shorelines. Please also join us in thanking President Obama and Secretary Kerry for protecting our ocean.

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Government Resolution Rises but Ocean Health Still Sinks Thu, 17 Oct 2013 12:00:11 +0000 Nick Mallos Marine debris litters a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where it washed ashore.

Photo: Susan White / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

While the federal government goes back to work today, the end of the shutdown did not arrive in time to save an important effort to problem-solve for our planet’s greatest natural resource—the ocean.

The U.S. State Department’s International Oceans Conference, which was scheduled to take place next week, has been indefinitely postponed. In June, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he intended to make ocean health a top priority. To achieve this, Secretary Kerry convened high-level ocean experts—including Ocean Conservancy CEO Andreas Merkl—to identify actions the United States and other countries could take to move the ocean toward a sustainable future. He said:

We are committed to addressing threats including pollution, overfishing and ocean acidification… This fall, I will host an international oceans conference to further explore these issues and work toward shared solutions.

Thanks to the shutdown, this badly needed shot in the arm for the ocean has been delayed. We very much need to build on the amazing individual actions that conservationists are taking around the world and work with our leaders to systematically address our most pressing ocean problems. This conference would be a big step in that direction.

Secretary Kerry and other key decision-makers and ocean leaders from around the world recognize that the present threats challenging our ocean are not just environmental, they are also personal. Atop this list is ocean plastic pollution. Plastic pollution affects our local economies, our local beaches, our health and the safety of our food. The everyday decisions we make have very real, lasting implications for our well-being and that of the ocean.

I’ve said before: At its core, plastic pollution is not an ocean problem, it is a people problem. And because people are at the center, this means we can solve it if we have the vision and the temerity to confront the problem head-on. At a time when momentum seemed to be on our side and conservation leaders and international decision-makers were prepared to build a road map for the ocean’s future, indecision and partisanship yet again intervened.

This is certainly no way to run a government or protect our ocean.

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The Ocean: Our Greatest Natural Resource Thu, 27 Jun 2013 14:45:54 +0000 Andreas Merkl

I wrote recently for the State Department’s Our Planet blog about the importance of the ocean as a natural resource. Here’s an excerpt:

Despite the fact that our planet is 70 percent water, it’s easy to take for granted the many ways that the ocean keeps us alive. The ocean provides much of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the climate that surrounds us.

The complex ocean systems that produce these benefits—from currents and photosynthesis to food chains—are often chaotic and unpredictable at smaller scales, but at large scales they come together in a balanced way to ensure that life can thrive.

The ocean is resilient, and it will provide for us unless we forget about its vital role at the center of the biggest challenge of our time – how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us.

Click here to read the full post.

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