Second World Ocean Summit Held in California

underwater reefscape in the florida keysAt the end of February the World Ocean Summit held a three day conference in Half Moon Bay, California.  It was attended by hundreds of representatives of governments, environmental groups, academic institutions and corporations. They came together to discuss solutions to international ocean governance, sustainable use of a shared resource and what role business can play in these issues.

Opening remarks were made by Julie Packard, trustee of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and the executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  She strongly believes that business needs to be closely involved in creating a sustainable ocean.  She cited the work of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and the way it alters consumer’s decisions. She also discussed her family’s foundations work with the Marine Stewardship Council which focuses on how fish are caught, marketed and sold.

Ms. Packard said that the ocean provides oxygen, buffers the effects of greenhouse gases, supplies protein for millions of people around the world, and drives commerce.  She said that business leadership is “the critical factor essential to success” in protecting the ocean.

Leon Panetta, The former U.S. Secretary of Defense, also speaking at the conference said “Our oceans are critical. They are central to our economy: one in six jobs are dependent on coastal communities. They also provide health, nutrition, they are essential to national security and they are important to life itself.”

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, in his address via video conferencing, said “we depend on the oceans, literally, for the essentials of life.”  He said we need to protect our oceans first as it is an “economic imperative with fisheries supporting a $500 billion global economy and the livelihoods of almost a billion people around the world.”  The other important reason is a food security issue and therefore a global security issue. “More than one billion people worldwide depend on fish as their primary source of protein.”

The Secretary cited three major problems to our oceans: overfishing, pollution and greenhouse gases.  He then gave three tangible ways that can begin to improve the health of our oceans. Kerry said the U.S. government and domestic industries have made real progress in sustainably managing our fisheries.  By trying to stop ports from importing illegally harvested fish and implementing more systematic checks on seafood delivered to ports all over the world.  The second way is more sustainable agricultural processes that would go a long way toward cutting down on nutrient pollution and doing a better job of protecting coastal and marine areas.  Lastly, he said “if we want to slow down the rate of acidification on our oceans, protect our corals reefs, and save species from extinction, we have to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and pursue cleaner sources of energy.”

Creating a sustainable seafood system was a hot topic at the conference as well as aquaculture, the practice of farming seafood instead of catching it in the wild.  Both potential remedies to some of the problems caused by overfishing.

While the conference ended with many stating their commitment to addressing these issues some took concrete action.  The President of Columbia pledged he would halt the import and export of sharks to his country.  Chile created a new 300 mile Marine Protected Area along its coast and Secretary Kerry announced he would convene an international conference this summer.

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