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Closing the Next Steps Panel of Our Ocean Conference

Location: Washington, DC

SECRETARY KERRY: This is our last meeting of the entire group in this room. There will be a breakout group meeting here later in the day, but this will be the last session in which everybody will be assembled in the same room at the same time. And I just want to observe that over the course of my career I've been to a lot of conferences, but I have to tell you I've never been to one where people stayed in their seats, sat as attentive and as focused as you have with as little movement and sort of breakup and large gaps in the seating. I personally am impressed by the way in which there has just been a sense of serious purpose and intent here, and I congratulate and thank all of you for that. You are the ones who have brought that sense of urgency to this effort here. I might say that by being so rigid and so firmly planted we can say with certainty that the oceans movement is a hard-ass group of folks. (Laughter and applause.)

What's amazing, I sat there listening to the folks who felt inspired to contribute beyond what had been previously thought would occur. And so out of this conference has come more -- a commitment to a combination of effort with respect to climate and oceans, but specifically focused on acidification and sea level rise and all the special efforts of these recent spontaneous announcements that you have made. And I'm particularly grateful to the minister from the Bahamas and the Bahamas initiative which is so critical, to Ted Waitt and the Waitt Foundation. I can remember meeting with Ted in San Diego a long time ago when he sort of focused and told me he was really going to put his energy and focus into the oceans, and he has done that tremendously and importantly.

The Cook Islands Prime Minister Puna, we thank you for a 50-mile zone, which just really moves people away from areas of greatest accessibility and will have a significant impact. Mark Spalding, The Ocean Foundation, and the Global Environment Facility, creating a platform for action, and Lynne Hale and Nature Conservancy, a 3.8 million investment in the Marine Initiative.

And finally are my friends from the UK, William Hague and his representative, special representative for climate change, and the effort to work on partnerships and recognize this is indeed an enormous diplomatic challenge to bring countries together in a multilateral forum. This has been as delightful a group of committed activists, scientists, academians, NGOs, civil society, and government representatives who have come together with a serious purpose, and I think everybody deserves their mutual congratulations.

Out of this, particularly with the remarkable contribution and seriousness of purpose expressed by the Government of Norway, we have today received commitments for action over $1,450,000,000, and that is all directed to ocean (inaudible). (Applause.)

In addition to that, with some new commitments we're soon going to be halfway to the number of countries needed to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement so that it can enter into force. And I will personally engage in efforts, and I hope others here will join, particularly my minister colleagues, in the effort to push to get that done. When we achieve that, we get a few more countries on board, we'll be able to take an enormous step forward in preventing illegally caught catches, illegal fish catch from making it to the market.

Finally, right now only a small fraction of the world's ocean, as we have all talked about it, is currently protected. But with the announcements that have been made here today and over the course of this conference and additional announcements at lunch, including the announcement President Obama made this morning, we're potentially on the verge of protecting more than 3 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean. We need to do more elsewhere but that is a terrific start, and I congratulate everybody for their part in doing that. (Applause.)

We have a lot to do in a short time. There isn't anybody here who hasn't come here because they don't understand the depth of this challenge. And I am so appreciative for all of you taking the time, making the commitment to be here. Our hope was and remains -- and it's something that I felt significantly in my travels both as a senator and as Secretary, I would talk to people. And you'd get a certain number of people who go to a conference in one place or another, but we haven't often enough been able to convene all of the stakeholders that are necessary. We don't have them all here either yet. We need to continue to push that. Because when people come together like this, there is a certainty of purpose, a certainty of understanding the challenge. And there's a sense of unity and of breadth, scope if you will, of people taking actions ready to move that in itself is infectious, as we saw today with spontaneous combustion presenting these additional efforts. We have to continue that. And I said at the outset of this that is the purpose of this meeting.

So our team has been assembling a compilation of the best practices and of those suggestions made here for those things that need to be done in order to get this job done. And we will be putting this plan out immediately this afternoon after this conference. Everybody here can go to it immediately on It will be accessible. We will be working to promulgate it. We'll be working to try to build a critical energy underneath it to take it to the United Nations, to take it to other international organizations that could have an impact. And we will try to build this so that this will become, in effect, the guide for the steps that we need to take in order to protect our ocean and in order to encourage other nations to sign on to do the same.

Eventually our goal is for this plan to translate into a unified global ocean policy. Now governments obviously have an important role to play. We all know that. But what is proven here by Ted and Nature Conservancy and other individual efforts here is that people, civil society, these young folks who are here who are going to be tweeting and pushing this out to social media and engaging, can begin to create a movement at colleges, universities, schools all across the world -- this is something everybody can understand -- and force political action by virtue of making this a voting issue where people feel that if they don't do this they're not going to be running a government, they're not going to get elected. That's how it works most effectively.

And lest any of you have any doubt about that, let me tell you something. When I first came back from Vietnam back in 1969-'70, I didn't first begin to protest the war. I first began to be involved with something called Earth Day, Earth Day 1970. And we organized. Twenty million people came out of their homes and said we don't want to drink toxic water, we don't want to have cancer thrust on us, we don't want to live next to a waste dump. And guess what? Those 20 million people then focused on 12 members of the United States Congress. They were labeled the "dirty dozen," the worst votes on the environment in Congress. And in the next election, seven of them lost. (Applause.) That sent a message up and down the spines of the survivors, who then promptly voted for the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and they created the EPA. (Applause.) We didn't even have an Environmental Protection Agency until that happened. (Applause.)

So as we leave here, we need to remember the power of these facts and these ideas of this mission. And I just ask everybody here to think about one last thing. I will always remember the comments of President Kennedy in 1962 when he attended the World Cup -- not World Cup, excuse me, the Americas Cup. (Laughter.) I have World Cup on the mind. And he talked about our connection to the sea and it's a wonderful passage and you should all go be reminded, but I'd just remind you quickly. He talked about how each of us has this special connection to the sea because we come from the sea, and you just have to measure the amount of salt in water in the human body and in the veins in our blood, and you understand that connection. And so we leave here with a special sense of that connection, but most importantly, thanks to all of you, we leave here with a special mission, a special renewed vigor, a sense of commitment to what we have to achieve. I thank you all for being part of this effort.

We will convene again. It will be in Peru, and after that maybe back here. We will convene again.


SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it'll be in Chile instead of Peru. (Laughter.) Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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