Protecting Our Ocean through Marine Protected Areas

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 15, 2016

As a committed advocate for the preservation of our marine environment, I applaud President Obama’s decision to designate the first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean. And having represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate for almost 30 years, I am pleased that he has done so in a manner that respects and supports the unique environment and industry of Massachusetts and New England. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument will preserve an unspoiled underwater ecosystem and help protect deep-water corals and endangered marine animals. Today’s announcement follows the President’s designation last month of the world’s largest marine protected area through expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific. By protecting ecologically sensitive areas of our ocean, the United States is leading on an issue that is important to people on every continent because of the ocean’s connection to food security, shared prosperity, and resiliency in the face of climate change.

From my first day as Secretary of State, I have sought to raise the priority of these issues in our foreign policy. Two years ago, here in Washington, I hosted the first Our Ocean conference to help address mounting concerns that the seemingly inexhaustible resources of the ocean were seriously threatened by decades of pollution, illegal fishing practices, and changes in the atmosphere. The goal of that and subsequent Our Ocean conferences has been to mobilize a global network of actors and advocates in government, civil society, and the private sector to take concrete actions to defend and preserve the marine environment and the resources within it. During our gatherings in 2014 and 2015, nations from across the world committed to designate over six million square kilometers of ocean as marine protected areas. Additionally, we generated commitments for new ocean conservation initiatives valued at more than four billion dollars. This week, at the third Our Ocean conference, we will build on those achievements by announcing over 120 significant ocean conservation projects, including almost $2 billion in new pledges and commitments to protect more than two million square kilometers in new or expanded marine protected areas.

For more than a century, the United States has been a leader in setting aside vast areas of land to preserve as wilderness, as a refuge for wildlife, or as specially managed recreational areas and parks. Today, we are applying that same sense of urgency and vision to set aside sensitive areas of the ocean to ensure the enduring protection and survival of precious and irreplaceable marine ecosystems. This objective also reflects the deep connection that exists between the health of the ocean and so many aspects of human life. It is a policy informed by unassailable science and guided by the understanding that our shared prosperity is only sustainable if based on sound environmental practices. I applaud President Obama for his leadership and hope that our nation’s commitment to the future of our oceans will continue with strength and constancy of purpose for generations to come.