Turning the Tide for Ocean Protection
For thirty seven years, I've been working on oceans policy -- and there's never been a more urgent moment in this arena because never before has oceans stewardship been so inextricably connected to the future of our planet. Why? Because you cannot protect the oceans without solving climate change and you cannot solve climate change without protecting the oceans.
"...never before has oceans stewardship been so inextricably connected to the future of our planet. Why? Because you cannot protect the oceans without solving climate change and you cannot solve climate change wihtout protectimng the oceans."
Even if we did not face the threat and growing reality of climate change, we would need to face up to the challenge of oceans conservation for the reason alone that we owe better policy choices to the more than three billion people worldwide who depend on fish as their primary source of protein. The next generation should be able to count on the oceans that my generation too often took for granted -- and have pushed to the brink of breaking.
"...more than three billion people worldwide who depend on fish as their primary source of protein."
But climate change has converged these challenges in ways that are truly existential and should scare all of us to attention. All over the globe, too much money is chasing too few fish. Too much money is still strip-mining the oceans. Rising carbon dioxide levels from emissions increase ocean acidity and devastate coral reefs and marine life. 60% of global fish stocks are fished at maximum levels, and 33% are overfished and in need of recovery. A mere 7.5% of the ocean has any form of protection, and over 2% is strongly protected.
Make no mistake: there is no blue economy, if we do not protect our oceans. And we cannot protect our oceans if we cannot show people everywhere that, done right, protecting them doesn't cost jobs -- it creates jobs.
"...there is no blue economy, if we do not protect our oceans ... protecting them doesn't cost jobs -- it creates jobs."
And that is the exact same story about climate change itself. Time is running out. Climate change is changing the basic chemistry of the ocean faster than it has in the last 50 million years. It is threatening some marine life that may simply die out because it can no longer survive in the very waters that have nourished it since time began. By the middle of this century there will be more plastic in the water than fish.
WWO Instagram Live: John Kerry and marine biologist Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.
We know the enemy -- and the enemy is man-made. That is the downside. But the upside is that mankind can provide the solution. How? We need to rally the energy and commitment of hundreds of nations in a new spirit of cooperation, with the strength of diplomacy around the solutions we know we can solve the crisis.
We know the way forward. We have established the world's first generation of great parks in the sea and protected marine environments that rival the Grand Canyon, Torres del Paine, and the Serengeti. We call them "marine protected areas." But today we are not doing enough in nearly enough places; we have to grow the numbers and make them count anywhere we can establish them. The level of protection largely determines the outcomes for conservation, fisheries, and climate mitigation. Last year, working with Dona Bertarelli, we began the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Ambassadors initiative to continue the global push to strongly protect 30% of the ocean. The words must have teeth -- protected must mean "protected."
"We must also prove that protection works hand-in-hand with sustainable management, safeguarding not just the environment but communities where fishing must remain a way of life. We have got to make fishermen our partners -- and never our enemies."
We must also prove that protection works hand-in-hand with sustainable management, safeguarding not just the environment but communities where fishing must remain a way of life. If we do that right, it means that instead of too many fishermen chasing too few fish, illegal and unsustainable fishing will go down and the sustainable daily catch will go up. Most importantly, families that have fished for five hundred years will no longer be afraid they'll have to tell their grandchildren about a heritage left by the wayside. We have got to make fishermen our partners -- and never our enemies.
Doing this right is in their fundamental interests -- not just ours. If there are no fish to catch, they are out of business. We need to make our solutions their solutions too.
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It takes a village to meet the ocean challenge -- but let me be clear: it cannot be a Potemkin village. We cannot afford to do a little here and a little there. We have to do it everywhere.
"...every country on Earth needs to do all it can to reduce carbon pollution -- not just for the future of marine life, but for the future of all life."
The stakes do not get any bigger. In the 30 years I have been working on oceans policy across all seven continents, the stakes have only grown. But I am an optimist for many reasons -- including knowing with certainty how much luckier we are than any other generation that has faced challenges approaching this magnitude.
Today we know more about the oceans than any scientists or policy-makers had ever known before. Previous generations did not have satellite imaging. They did not have billions of dollars in collective resources from research universities, governments, and businesses determined to preserve their way of life.
"Resolving climate change and saving the oceans is the challenge of our time ... Get it done and we will preserve our coastal communities and ecosystems, strengthen fisheries, and feed the billions who will inhabit this planet.
Surely, we can save the oceans with the innovation, insight, and investment that no previous generation dared to dream existed. Resolving climate change and saving the oceans is the challenge of our time. And we can do it, but it means we must create a powerful current -- fueled by the energy of millions of advocates and activists that can correct the course of history -- to push past the barriers that get in the way: delay, denial, distortion. Get it done and we will preserve our coastal communities and ecosystems, strengthen fisheries, and feed the billions who will inhabit this planet. We will keep the majestic blue jewel that covers three quarters of our planet and sustains life around the equator and from pole to pole for future generations. Rather than being prisoners of history, we can turn its tide -- and turn it in time. There is no greater mission that should motivate us.