The world now has 40 new marine protected areas that will protect the ocean and the creatures that live in it from the threat of overfishing and pollution.
Leaders from 20 countries promised to set aside nearly 4 million square kilometers in critical marine areas during the third annual Our Ocean conference in Washington September 15–16.
President Obama announced at the conference that the U.S. was establishing the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New England. And in August, the president created the world’s largest marine protected area off the coast of Hawaii.
“It is vital for our foreign policy. It’s vital for our national security. But it’s also vital for our spirit. It’s vital to who we are,” Obama said.
Plastic bag bans:
Countries, conservation organizations and businesses also pledged actions worth more than $5.3 billion to address ocean health around the world, in areas such as climate change, illegal fishing and disappearing fish populations. And $1 billion was pledged to fight marine pollution.
Five countries banned the production, manufacture and/or use of certain plastic bags (see sidebar).
“It’s not just about governments stepping up. It’s about everyone stepping up,” Secretary of State John Kerry said to close the conference.
Young ocean leaders brought ideas and optimism. And a coalition of governments and organizations launched the Safe Ocean Network to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
“After many decades of environmental advocacy, I can tell you I’ve never been as enthusiastic about our capacity to be able to get this job done,” Kerry said.
Find a detailed list of all of this year’s commitments and stay tuned for the 2017 Our Ocean conference, hosted next year by the European Union in Malta.