By Paige Welsh
This October, visiting Fellow, Dr. Whit Saumweber—an experienced ocean policymaker from Washington D.C.—represented the Center for Ocean Solutions at the 2015 international Our Ocean conference in Chile. Expectations were high after last year’s conference in Washington DC galvanized the international community to protect more than 1.1 million square miles of ocean and invest over 800 million dollars in conservation. By the end of this year’s conference, Saumweber witnessed the 56 participating countries jointly commit to $2.1 billion worth of conservation measures and new initiatives attacking ocean acidification and pollution.
“The Our Ocean 2015 conference served as both a call for continued action on global ocean stewardship and also provided a valuable demonstration of the power of sustained focus by policy makers,” said Saumweber.
Notably, the United States declared its intent to develop two new marine sanctuaries—one off the coast of Maryland and another in Lake Michigan—and committed to continuing its efforts against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) through further development of a traceability program, tracking seafood from catch to import, and through the creation of an international partnership on IUU enforcement called "Sea Scout." Chile and New Zealand also announced enormous new marine reserves, including plans for protections around Easter Island. In addition, the European Union (EU) committed €675 million to support developing states in managing their fisheries.
New global initiatives for ocean acidification and ocean pollution will include increasing public outreach and ocean monitoring. Strategies to better understand ocean acidification and its impacts include new U.S. support for public-private partnerships working in the Indian Ocean and for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center. New Zealand and Panama announced efforts to better understand the value of marine ecosystem services in countering ocean acidification and supporting resiliency to further change. Announced anti-pollution efforts included several new national and public-private recycling inititatives including a U.S. supported Waste To Energy initiative in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Finally, the United States promised to host the Our Ocean conference in 2016 with the EU hosting in 2017. Saumweber believes the conference demonstrates the value of making conservation efforts international.
“The Our Ocean conference is about the global community coming together. It was inspiring to see such a wide variety of countries, organizations and groups making strong commitments to ocean conservation," said Saumweber.