During the Secretary’s “Our Ocean” Conference, we encountered some startling realities about the state of our oceans: a third of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited, while another two thirds cannot support expanded harvest; 80 percent of marine pollution originates on land; 500 dead zones now exist and many more areas suffer from high nutrient pollution; packaging and plastics constitute a significant percent of all marine debris. Immediate measures are necessary to remedy the situation.
The private sector possesses remarkable potential to stimulate innovation and institute changes that can contribute to efforts to improve the health of our oceans and coasts. In fact, looking at the state of the marine environment from a business perspective may unveil new ways to incentivize more industries to implement sustainable practices and standards. The objective of this session was to identify solutions that would harness the power of market forces to help protect our oceans.
Our session began with speakers from Dell Computers and the Ocean Recovery Alliance who discussed advancements in materials and waste management approaches, with a focus on the growing partnerships between corporations and NGOs. Through their partnership with Newlight Technologies, Dell is integrating closed-loop recycling into their current manufacturing and has begun using AirCarbon material, which transforms greenhouse gasses into plastic, as a new form of sustainable packaging.
Representatives from JetBlue Airways, The Ocean Foundation, and Sailors for the Sea spoke about the tourism industry’s role in promoting long-term ocean health. Recognizing the connection between the value of clean beaches and potential revenues, JetBlue and The Ocean Foundation are working together to create a quantifiable metric (per seat-mile dollar) that better correlates ocean health and revenues to encourage conservation.
The CEOs of Bumble Bee Foods and the Marine Stewardship Council addressed their partnership and challenges related to sustainable fisheries. These organizations attempt to empower well-managed fisheries to create more sustainable seafood through certification programs and educational outreach. To date, MSC has successfully labelled over 22,500 products as sustainably captured, generating $3 billion annually for their certified products, in the global market. While a number of challenges still interfere with the necessary development of sustainable fisheries, Tetra Tech described a new public-private partnership called mFish, which provides tools to increase the productivity and efficiency of fisheries, by capitalizing on the spread of mobile technology.
Following the presentations, panelists and audience members were encouraged to identify next steps to further engage stakeholders in supporting marine conservation. A variety of potential solutions were proposed including: the necessity of government regulation to guide businesses; enhanced global cooperation; expanding recognition and incentives for companies engaged in sustainable practices; and tracking and verification systems to address fisheries fraud. Participants from the World Wildlife Fund and the American Chemistry Council were among those addressing the essential role of government in dealing with sustainability issues.
Our discussion and products such as mFish, serve as a meaningful foundation for new strategies that stakeholders can pursue. As Secretary Kerry noted about the Our Ocean conference, “[it] is about creating and galvanizing a synergy with leaders from more than 80 countries representing foreign, economic, and oceans ministries, non-governmental organizations, foundations, private companies, and the scientific and research communities to focus on the ocean’s problems and on the solutions.”
Our intent is that this dialogue will continue over the coming months and years, and that we can work together to stimulate new innovations that use market forces to benefit our ocean.
For more information:
- Secretary Kerry's State Department Ocean Conference Results in $1.8 Billion in Pledges
- Follow @EconEngage and @StateDeptOES on Twitter for more information.