Facebook Live Interview With Sean Lesniak for Discovery Channel

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Discovery Channel Headquarters
Silver Spring, MD
June 1, 2016

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Sean Lesniak, and I’m here with Secretary John Kerry to interview him about sharks. Would you like to say hi to the fans?

SECRETARY KERRY: Hi, guys. I’m John Kerry, and I’m here with Sean, looking forward to a conversation about sharks.

QUESTION: Now, let’s get down to business. I love sharks. How did you get interested in sharks and the ocean?

SECRETARY KERRY: I think I got interested when I first got scared as a kid. But I’ve always been interested in all of the ocean life, and sharks are obviously a big part of it.

QUESTION: All right. From Twitter, Sideways101 asked, “What can we do about plastic in our ocean?”

SECRETARY KERRY: You’ve got to keep it from going in the ocean in the first place, and we’ve got to clean up the plastic that is there. There – what’s amazing is the amount of plastic, and it’s very, very damaging, as you know, to marine species, because they ingest it – birds ingest it. And it’s very, very – it kills. So last year they had a cleanup globally. About 800,000 young people came out and helped clean up the ocean or the beaches around the ocean, and they came up with the equivalent of 100 737s’ worth of – Boeing 737s’ worth of trash out of the ocean, of plastic, which is obviously a stunning amount of tonnage. There are places in the ocean – I’m sure you know this – whether there’s just a swirl of huge amount of garbage, plastic.

So we need to pick it up. We’ve got to clean it out of the ocean; we’ve got to keep it from going into the ocean. We have to have an awareness of this in ocean communities around the world, water communities, estuaries, bays, rivers – anywhere where it can flow out and become a hazard, become a weapon that kills marine life.

QUESTION: All right. So number three, can you introduce me to President Barack Obama so he can he can help me to stop the shark fin trade?

SECRETARY KERRY: (Laughter.) Can I? Yeah, I can. Will I? I don’t know. I’ve got to figure this out. If you treat me well, Sean, maybe we can cut a deal here. We’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: All right. Laura --

SECRETARY KERRY: I think he’d love to meet you. I think you’ve got a lot going, obviously, and he’d be interested in your conservation efforts.

QUESTION: Laura R. is asking, “What are other solutions to help our oceans’ health?”

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there are a lot of other solutions. We can have better agriculture practices where we don’t have as much nitrate flowing off of farmland into the waters, carried out into – for instance, through the Mississippi River, the Gulf, where you have a 5,000-square-mile dead zone. Or in the Chesapeake right nearby here, you’ve got pfiesteria and huge algae bloom that occurs because the nitrate overload kills the oxygen, which kills the plant life, and then you have a problem. So – and fish die because their spawning grounds or their food disappears. So we need to stop the overload of trash and fuel and muck, and particularly the nitrates that flow into all of our water bodies. That’s one thing we can do.

We obviously need to be more cognizant of fishing practices and prevent illegal fishing in order to save the oceans and preserve life in a sustainable fishery. And getting people to have enforcement measures that prevent too many fish from being taken out of one particular stock, which is not sustainable, is critical to all of us.

QUESTION: All right. So I have this one, which is my favorite: Who are you rooting for in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Sharks or the Penguins?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I know who you’re rooting for, but I’m rooting for the Penguins, because the Penguins, you see, are in the same league as the Boston Bruins, and the Bruins didn’t make it. So I have to be loyal to my league. And the penguins are kind of at a disadvantage to a shark, don’t you think?

QUESTION: Yeah, but – yeah, true, but they’ve already won a championship, and the Sharks haven’t won one yet. I think it’s fair for the Penguins to share some of the glory with the Sharks too.



SECRETARY KERRY: This – I think this is the year of the penguin. (Laughter.) Let’s see what happens.

QUESTION: All right. All right, I have some other questions. All right. How is the climate change affecting our oceans and sharks?

SECRETARY KERRY: Climate change is having a very negative impact on the oceans because the acidity, which comes out of CO2 that dumps into the ocean or is stored in the ocean, turns into carbonic acid. And that carbonic acid has a very negative effect on particularly crustacean marine life, and also on coral reefs, which are critical. About half the coral reef of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is dead as a result of what has happened through coral bleaching, which occurs because of the acidification. So there’s a profound negative impact on marine life – on the habitat, on the ecosystem as a system.

We don’t know all of the impacts. We still are learning about what happens. But we do know that, for instance, clams grow at a lesser or greater degree depending on how much acidity is in the water in that particular place. So we see an impact very directly. We know also that certain other marine life is negatively affected by the acidification.

You also have a warming that’s taking place, so it’s not just the acidity side. You have a warming that’s taking place. That warming means a migration of certain kinds of fish from colder to warmer or warmer to colder, and you have the melting of ice that’s taking place which is exposing a whole new set of areas to commercial fishing that hadn’t been exposed. And unless that is managed properly, it could have a profound impact, negative impact on the overall balance of the ecosystem as a whole.

QUESTION: What is your favorite shark and why?

SECRETARY KERRY: My favorite shark is one that everybody can feel comfortable being in the water around, like a basking shark or a sand shark. I think just because people don’t have a pure understanding of what sharks may or may not do, that’s the easiest one to manage.

QUESTION: Have you ever swam or gone diving with sharks?

SECRETARY KERRY: Sure, absolutely. I’ve been diving and I’ve watched a shark asleep on the – in a cave on the ocean floor.

QUESTION: Tonic immobility?

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. It’s kind of cool. And swimming around a shark that you know is not going to tear you apart is a lot more fun than being nervous. I’m not exactly anxious to meet a great white shark while I’m in the water.

QUESTION: That’s all the questions we have.