Words by Smiley Team
On April 13 and 14, delegates from across the world, representing governments, businesses, academic institutions, and many other bodies came together in the Pacific island nation of Palau.
At the meeting, these groups announced commitments worth more than $16 billion to protect ocean health at the seventh Our Ocean Conference.
“We’re starting now finally to act with the urgency that the moment demands,” U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, said, “even as we understand that we have to accelerate even more.”
The annual conference was founded by Kerry in 2014 who was then the US secretary of state. It was envisioned as a platform to help raise funding and awareness for the most pressing issues involving the ocean. In recent years its become a milestone event for climate and ocean health accountability.
There were 410 total commitments made at this year’s event jointly hosted by the US and the Republic of Palau and the United States. To date, the event has brought forth more than 1,800 commitments worth more than $108 billion and protected at least 13 million square kilometers (5 million square miles) of the ocean.
This year was the first time that the event was hosted by a small island nation, offering the perspective of those that are innately linked with the ocean.
“For me, like many Palauans, and millions of people from ocean communities around the world, our connection to the ocean is very personal,” Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. said in his opening address on April 13. “Our lives, cultures, and economies are inherently shaped by the ocean as a provider and protector. It’s our home, it’s our lifeline, it’s what makes us who we are.”
The conference was named “Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity.” There were six primary focuses following that moniker: combating climate change, promoting sustainable fisheries, creating sustainable blue economies, advancing marine protected areas, achieving safe and secure oceans, and tackling marine pollution.
A central theme of the event was focusing on building a more sustainable relationship with the ocean, in a way that is internationally equitable. Another major piece was tackling plastic pollution in the ocean which could triple by 2040.
The conference ended, highlighting the importance of mixing traditions and modern science, with Surangel adding: "The immense value of traditional knowledge and practices of Indigenous people [as] a crucial supplement to science that cannot be ignored."
GET INVOLVED: You can find out more about the Oceans Conference directly, and look into the work they’re doing, on their website.
DONATE: You can support Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit working to protect the ocean from today's greatest challenges. Donate here.