Our Ocean Conference 2016

The Pulse recently had an opportunity to participate in a national conference call with other student publications from campuses across the country. The call was hosted by Judith Garber,  who works in Washington D.C. as the assistant secretary of state for oceans, international environmental and scientific affairs. The focus of the call was to bring attention to the annual Our Ocean conference which gathers nations across the globe to discuss ocean conservation. Our Ocean was held Sept. 15 and 16 in Washing D.C. and included keynote talks from Secretary of State John Kerry, President Barack Obama and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

“Secretary Kerry is fond of saying that nothing connects all of us but the ocean,” Garber said in the call.

After a brief introduction about the purpose of the event, the call was opened up to the students to ask questions about the conference and its goals.

Sarah Antozzi from the Marlin Chronicle at Virginia Wesleyan College asked Garber to communicate the one main takeaway she would like students to have from the call.

“That our ocean is under threat, that solutions are possible, and it’s all of our responsibility to take action to help our ocean,” Garber said.

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Graphic from ourocean2016.org

The main focus areas of the conference were centered around marine protected areas, climate, sustainable fisheries and marine pollution. Different solutions and ideas were proposed at the conference along with monetary donations and commitments to aid in those solutions.

Since the international conference was focused on what countries as a whole can do for ocean conservation, Katie Gagliano from the Daily Reveille at Louisiana State University asked what role the national administration was encouraging states to play.

Garber responded by confirming that some states were actually participating at the conference. “This is an issue that can’t just be solved by governments or international organizations. It is something that needs state and local communities. We are trying to do outreach at every level,” she said.

But what about states like Michigan that aren’t bordering an ocean? Spring Arbor University’s Professor of Biology Chris Newhouse said that, in terms of effects from ocean pollution, there would be “relatively few negative impacts” on the Michigan and the Great Lakes.

5-ouroceanplastic

Graphic from ourocean2016.org

Both Garber and Newhouse mentioned the role plastic plays in ocean pollution. According to Garber, the “ocean is suffering from massive quantities of plastic waste.”

Newhouse said, “We can make plastics bio-degradable. Or we can do a better job of recycling plastics. If we can figure out how to remove them in the ocean most of the those [solutions] could be applied to the Great Lakes.”

More information from the conference can be found on the website ourocean2016.org

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