Updates on Commitments Made at Our Ocean 2014

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
October 5, 2015

The inaugural Our Ocean conference in June 2014 generated ground-breaking commitments among international partners to promote sustainable fisheries, reduce marine pollution, and stem ocean acidification. The following are pledges made at the first conference and updates on progress made since then, as Our Ocean 2015 commences in Valparaiso, Chile.

Sustainable Fisheries

  • President Obama announced the creation of a new U.S. Taskforce on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud. The Presidential Task Force unveiled its action plan in March, and implementation is underway including a new program to trace seafood from harvest anywhere in the world to entry into the United States, ensuring that the goods are sustainably and legally harvested.
  • Norway pledged more than $150 million to promote global fisheries development and management. These funds have been used to build a third research vessel to train fisheries experts and managers from around the world and to hold workshops for port authorities on how best to combat IUU fishing.
  • The United States, /tone, and the GSM Association launched the mFish public-private partnership to provide mobile devices and apps to small-scale fishers in developing countries, helping them access market and weather information and deliver reports on their catches. The technology was piloted in Indonesia and plans are underway to expand the program.
  • The United States and Palau announced a partnership to test the use of multiple remote surveillance technologies for detecting illegal fishing. The United States and Palau undertook a number of demonstration projects to expand maritime domain awareness (MDA) and increase the ability to track potential IUU fishing and trafficking activities. These projects included multiple remote surveillance technologies, information exchange and display tools, and capabilities to rapidly access commercial satellite data.
  • Foreign Minister Dussey of Togo announced a new agreement among Togo, Benin, Ghana, and Nigeria to combat illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea. In March, the Economic Community of West African States inaugurated a multinational maritime coordination center to counter IUU fishing through information sharing and coordination of joint patrols, training, and drills.
  • Several governments committed to joining the Port State Measures Agreement, which aims to prevent illegally harvested fish from entering the stream of commerce. Three countries have joined since the 2014 conference, and at least 7 more are close to joining, getting us well over half way to the 25 parties needed to bring this ground-breaking treaty into force.

Marine Protected Areas

  • President Barack Obama announced a commitment to protect some of the most precious U.S. marine seascapes. In September 2014, the United States expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by almost six times to encompass 1.27 million square kilometers – making it the largest marine reserve in the world that is off limits to any commercial extraction, including commercial fishing.
  • President Anote Tong announced the decision of Kiribati to ban commercial fishing in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. In January 2015, Kiribati made good on this commitment, protecting over 400,000 square kilometers of ocean, an area roughly the size of California.
  • President Remengesau unveiled the design for the proposed Palau National Marine Sanctuary. In October 2014, legislation was introduced in the Palau Senate and in August 2015, the Palau House announced a companion bill. The proposal is expected to advance in the next legislative session with full designation in 2016.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio pledged $7 million through his foundation to ocean conservation projects over the next two years. In 2015, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation awarded over $4 million to new ocean conservation projects around the globe, working with key partners to create new large-scale marine reserves in the South Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the remote waters of the Arctic and Antarctica. The LDF is also supporting initiatives to stop the trade and overfishing of endangered shark species, and working with several partners in Indonesia and Somalia to help local communities protect their coastal waters.
  • Elizabeth Wright-Koteka and Kevin Iro of the Cook Islands announced plans to expand marine reserves around their country. Legislation to create the Cook Islands Marine Park is under development.
  • Sir David King of the United Kingdom announced a public process to consider the establishment of a marine conservation zone covering most of the exclusive economic zone around the Pitcairn Islands – an area in the Pacific Ocean covering more than three times the size of the UK. Earlier this year, the UK announced its intention to protect the marine environment with a “blue belt” to safeguard these precious marine habitats, both around the UK and the Territories overseas. The UK also announced its intention to establish a large-scale, no-take MPA around Pitcairn Island, once an effective monitoring and enforcement regime can be established and funded.
  • Minister Kenred Dorsett of the Bahamas announced additional MPAs to be created by the end of 2014, bringing the nation’s existing network of marine protected areas to at least 10 percent of its near-shore marine environment. In 2015, the Bahamas designated 15 new and 3 expanded MPAs to bring an additional 44,514 square kilometers of the marine environment under protection.

Marine Pollution

  • The United States announced the Trash Free Waters program to stop refuse and debris from entering the ocean through sustainable product design, increased material recovery, and a new nationwide trash prevention campaign. The program, operated by the Environmental Protection Agency, partnered with regional entities to develop strategies for five major coastal regions and over 10 cities, and it worked with business leaders to alter products, practices, and consumer behaviors to prevent future loadings of trash into the ocean.
  • Daniella Russo announced the Think Beyond Plastic™ Innovation Forum to advance entrepreneurship and to inspire innovations to reduce global plastic pollution. The program has grown significantly, launching its first business accelerator class and working on a project to eliminate marine plastics in the Mesoamerican Reef.
  • Norway pledged $1 million for a study on measures to combat marine plastic waste. Norway funded a study through the Global Partnership on Marine Litter on the sources and effects of microplastics in the environment.

Ocean Acidification

  • Norway announced the allocation in 2015 of over $1 billion to climate change mitigation and adaptation assistance. In the past year, the nation has given more than $250 million to the Green Climate Fund.
  • The United States announced an investment of more than $9 million over three years to sustain acidification observing capabilities, and a contribution of $640,000 to the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center (OA-ICC) in Monaco. The United States has invested nearly $6 million in the past two years to monitor ocean acidification and develop new sensor technologies, and has allocated the $640,000 pledge through the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Peaceful Uses Initiative to the OA-ICC.
  • The United States announced new projects totaling $1.24 million to meet challenges of ocean acidification and marine pollution in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The United States has allocated this pledge to the IAEA through the Peaceful Uses Initiative and projects are getting underway.
  • The United States announced new funding for a joint initiative with Canada and Mexico to catalogue North American coastal habitats that capture and hold carbon and to evaluate the possible use of carbon credits to protect these habitats. In its first phase, the project has produced detailed maps of these habitats in all three countries, aiding future research and management efforts.
  • In 2014, the Ocean Foundation announced the Friends of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network, a new fund to support the network. Funds raised by the foundation will be used to support a capacity-building workshop in Mozambique on ocean acidification monitoring.

Building Capacity

  • The Global Environment Facility announced funding of $460 million over four years to conserve and restore marine biodiversity, foster sustainable fisheries, and strengthen coastal management. The GEF has approved three marine-focused projects worth $52.9 million and six projects in total valued at $76.3 million.
  • The World Bank highlighted a new $10 million World Bank / Global Environment Facility investment that would improve management of tuna fisheries and other highly migratory fish stocks in the developing world. The project was approved by the World Bank board in September of 2014 and is expected to be in implementation until 2018.

Supporting Coastal Communities

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development announced new coastal programs valued at more than $170 million. Since the conference, USAID has awarded programs worth more than $135 million to promote ocean health, food security, nutrition, and human well-being by helping governments and communities improve fisheries management, combat illegal fishing and wildlife trafficking, strengthen MPA management, and conserve critical coastal habitats.
  • The Waitt Foundation announced the Fish Forever program to promote sustainable fisheries management. The program, a partnership with Rare, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Sustainable Fisheries Group at the University of California Santa Barbara, now has operations at more than 40 sites across Belize, Brazil, Indonesia, The Philippines, and Mozambique.

Mapping and Understanding the Ocean

  • The United States announced the activation of two new research vessels, providing a new generation of scientists with cutting-edge technology to explore the ocean. The Office of Naval Research took delivery of the R/V Neil Armstrong in September, and the ship is expected to begin research operations under the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution next year, while the R/V Sally Ride, to be operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is expected to enter service in late 2016.
  • The Nature Conservancy announced a three-year effort to Map the Ocean’s Wealth, with a $3.8 million lead investment from the Lyda Hill Foundation, to quantify and map key ecosystem services that the ocean provides. As a result of this project, new ocean wealth data is being used to inform economic development and conservation in five critically important seascapes around the world, and TNC has launched oceanwealth.org to make this information available broadly.
  • The Waitt Institute announced an initiative to help Caribbean nations undertake ocean zoning and sustainable management of fisheries. Since last year’s conference, the Blue Halo Initiative has expanded to Montserrat and Curaçao, supporting those island’s governments and communities as they envision, design, and implement comprehensive ocean policies.

For further information, please visit 2009-2017.state.gov/ourocean.