Op-Ed: Our Oceans are Everyone’s Responsibility

Our Oceans are Everyone’s Responsibility
WOD 500
World Oceans Day – By Edwin R. Nolan, U.S. Ambassador to Suriname

By Edwin R. Nolan, U.S. Ambassador to Suriname

PARAMARIBO – Covering more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface, oceans have a profound impact on our way of life.  Today, on World Oceans Day,  I join President Barack Obama’s and Secretary of State John Kerry’s call for all citizens of the world take action to protect, conserve, and restore our oceans, coasts, and waterways.

Life on Earth wouldn’t exist without the oceans.  Half the oxygen that we breathe is produced through the oceans, along with a massive amount of the food that the world consumes.  In addition to that, our oceans play a critical role in regulating climate.  Ocean warming, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise threaten the world’s food security, the biodiversity of the ocean, the integrity of coastal areas and even tourism and recreation.

Responses to these threats will require the coordinated action and commitments from governments and individuals around the globe.  I applaud the initiatives already under way at Anton de Kom University and at Conservation International Suriname to explore innovative approaches to reestablishing mangroves to protect Suriname’s seacoast from rising waters. In addition to all the other environmental benefits they provide, mangroves are nature’s protection against flooding and much less costly than man-made barriers.  Mangroves also store carbon very efficiently and, in that way, help to reduce climate change.

I congratulate WWF Guianas for hosting a Fishackathon over Earth Day weekend that brought fishermen, environmentalists, and IT professionals together to develop apps to monitor Suriname’s fisheries and make them more sustainable.  Suriname’s abundant mangroves and productive fisheries should be a source of pride.  As I have before, I also urge Suriname to sign the Minamata Convention on Mercury this year.  Mercury exposure is a major public health threat.  Populations that rely heavily on fish and marine mammals, such as Suriname’s indigenous populations, are particularly vulnerable.

The United States is also taking steps under our National Ocean Policy to support marine communities, strengthen our ocean economy, and improve the health of our oceans.  We are concentrating on key areas, including combating illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and monitoring significant changes in the acidity of our oceans.  We are also focused on reducing the toxic effects of harmful algal blooms, which occur when algae grow too rapidly and threaten the safety of our food, drinking water, and air quality.

In September, Secretary Kerry will host the third Our Ocean conference in Washington, DC.  As in years past, Our Ocean 2016 will bring together heads of state, scientists, business leaders, NGOs, and others to tackle key issues including marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and climate-related impacts on the ocean.  This year’s event, titled “Our Ocean, One Future,” will build on international commitments to protect the ocean made at the previous two conferences, and will partner with Georgetown University to engage the next generation of global ocean leaders.

Today, as we celebrate the immense beauty and power of our oceans, let us be reminded of our shared responsibility to protect them — now and for generations to come.