Kerry Wants 10% of World's Oceans Off-Limits to Human Activity

June 17, 2014 - 5:25 AM

ocean

(AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - With all that's happening in the world, Secretary of State John Kerry spent part of Monday addressing "the threats facing the ocean."

"Today less than 2 percent of our ocean is considered a marine-protected area where there are some restrictions on human activity in order to prevent contaminating the ecosystem," Kerry told a conference at the State Department. "There isn't anybody here who doesn't believe we can't do better than that. So let's start by finding a way to perhaps bring that number up to 10 percent or more as soon as possible."

Kerry said most people "underestimate the "enormous damage" that humans inflict on the oceans every day.

"When people order seafood from a restaurant, most of the time they don't realize that a third of the world's fish stocks are over-exploited, too much money chasing too few fish. And nearly all the rest are being fished at or near their absolute maximum sustainable level on a planet that has six billion people today and will rise to nine (billion) over the next 30, 40, 50 years."

Global strategy

Saving the ocean cannot be a one-person or one-nation effort. "It's a universal requirement all across this planet," Kerry said.

"The bottom line is that most people don't realize that if the entire world doesn't come together to try to change course and protect the ocean from unsustainable fishing practices, unprecedented pollution, or the devastating effects of climate change, then we run the risk of fundamentally breaking entire ecosystems," Kerry said.

Regional, ad-hoc approaches are not working, Kerry said, as he called for a "global ocean strategy."

"I want us to walk away from this conference with more than ideas. I want us to walk away from here with a plan -- a plan that puts an end to overfishing through new rules based on the best available science."

Kerry said fisheries must dramatically reduce the amount of fish and other species that are caught accidentally and discarded.

He called for a plan that ends subsidies to fisheries, "which only serve to promote overfishing."

He called for a plan "that makes it near-impossible for illegally-caught fish to actually come to the market anywhere, whether you're in Boston or Beijing or Barcelona or Brasilia or any other city that doesn't begin with a B.

"Let's develop a plan that protects more marine habitats -- and we will have an announcement regarding that -- I believe President Obama will make such an announcement," Kerry said.

"Today less than 2 percent of our ocean is considered a marine protected area where there are some restrictions on human activity in order to prevent contaminating the ecosystem. Less than 2 percent of the entire ocean. There isn't anybody here who doesn't believe we can't do better than that. So let's start by finding a way to perhaps bring that number up to 10 percent or more as soon as possible.

"And let's develop a plan that does more to reduce the flow of plastic and other debris from entering into the ocean...

"We need a plan that helps cut down the nutrient pollution that runs off of land and is miles from the shore and that contributes to the dead zones...We need to develop a plan that gives us a better understanding of the acidification effect that carbon pollution is having in our ocean...

"And we need to push harder, all of us, for U.N. agreements to fight carbon pollution in the first place because the science proves that's the only way we'll have a chance of reducing the impact of climate change, which is one of the greatest threats facing not just our ocean but our entire planet.

"Finally, we need to develop a plan that not only lays out the policies we need to protect our ocean, but that also considers how we are going to enforce those policies on a global scale, because without enforcement any plan we create will only take us so far."

Ocean in Kerry's DNA

Kerry said convening a save-the-ocean conference has been a priority of his for a long time:

"[L]iterally from the time I was growing up as a child in Massachusetts, when I first dipped my toes into the mud off Woods Hole Oceanographic, in that area of Buzzards Bay and the Cape, and was introduced to clamming and to fishing and all of those great joys of the ocean, I have had this enormous love and respect for what the ocean means to us."

That's partly why Kerry went into the Navy, he said: "It's sort of been my DNA."

"My mother's family was involved way, way, way back in the early days of trade through the oceans. And indeed, my father was a passionate sailor who in his retirement found a way to sail across the ocean several times.

"So I learned very early on to appreciate this vast expanse of the ocean, so vast that three-quarters of our planet is really ocean. Someone might have called our planet Ocean, not Earth, if it was based on that, but obviously, it is not."