United States hosts talks to save oceans under 'siege'
By Jo Biddle, AFP
June 16, 2014, 12:06 am TWN
WASHINGTON--U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry launches an unprecedented global effort Monday to save the world's oceans under siege from overfishing, climate change and pollution.
Heads of government and state as well as ministers from some 80 countries will gather with researchers and experts from the fishing, plastics and farming industries for the two-day conference aiming to find ways to protect the planet's seas and marine life.
"The oceans are a passion of mine and always have been, from the time I was three years old and dipped my toes into Buzzard's Bay," Kerry said, recalling his childhood on the wild, sweeping beaches of Massachusetts.
The ocean, which covers some 72 percent of the planet's surface, "is the essential ingredient of life itself on Earth," the top U.S. diplomat told a handful of reporters, adding that the seas are increasingly under threat.
"The world's oceans, as vast as they are, as much as they elicit a sense of awe ... they are under siege," Kerry warned, highlighting the dangers of overfishing, acidification caused by rising global temperatures and pollution.
The health of the oceans and their unique ecosystems has dramatically worsened in the 70 years since Kerry jumped the Atlantic waves as a child, conservationists say.
Today, one in five fish, or some 26 million tonnes a year, are illegally caught, one of the factors pushing many species to the edge of extinction.
Some 96 percent of the world's Pacific bluefin tuna stock, for example, is believed to have been depleted.
Vast areas known as "dead zones," caused by excessive pollution that has sapped the oxygen levels in the water, are devoid of life.
And family trips to the beach are enough to confirm that plastic and debris are sullying once pristine coastal waters.
Kerry and his top environmental staff hope the meeting will act as a catalyst to push governments to use tools already at their disposal to begin to clean up our seas and preserve marine life for future generations.
"There is a critical need to forge a consensus on behalf of the world's nations regarding the value of oceans to people, and the threats we face as a global society if we let the earth's marine systems fall apart," Pew Charitable Trusts executive vice president Joshua Reichert told AFP.