In Washington D.C. last week I attended the Our Ocean conference hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry at The State Department and the affiliated Ocean Leadership Summit hosted by Georgetown University. Following the main events, I spoke on a panel at the French Embassy for an event on climate, ocean preservation and scientific cooperation with Fabien Cousteau (Ocean Conservationist, Mission 31), Dr. Sylvia Earle (Oceanographer, National Geographic Explorer-in-residence, former NOAA Chief Scientist), Dr. Margaret Leinen (Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, and UCSD’s Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences), Dr. Françoise Gaill (Research Director at CNRS, Scientific Committee Coordinator of the Ocean & Climate Platform), and Bertrand Delorme (PhD candidate, Stanford).
The second day ended with dinner at the French Ambassador’s residence with the other panelists and Segolene Royal, France’s Minister of Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, and President of COP21.
Secretary Kerry announced key features of his Safe Ocean Network, which aims to build a global community to better combat illegal fishing. “Various nations are working hard to track and address illegal fishing, but the fact is no nation is currently capable of policing the entire range of the oceans,” he said. Enforcement is where technology can play a huge role in how we manage and protect the oceans, so this gets into my particular area of interest. Various uniformed members of the military explained aspects of the Safe Ocean Network, as well as representatives from partners including Google, SkyTruth, and Oceana. It was a beautiful example of public and private sectors working together for a common goal. This diagram (that I can't find online; pardon bad quality scan) explains the facets of their operations well:
If you only watch or read one speech from the even, I recommend President Obama’s (online video; transcript). I also recommend Admiral Robert Papp’s speech on the Arctic. If you’ve more time, however, basically everything was recorded and available for binge watching.
Adrian Grenier spoke several times alongside Secretary Kerry. Grenier, perhaps best known for his staring role in Entourage, and I first met during Mission 31 when the actor/ filmmaker/ environmentalist dove down to Aquarius to visit us during Mission 3. Approximately a year later he founded the Lonely Whale foundation to promote ocean conservation. His Instagram post with me at an Aquarius viewport was listed as one of “10 Times Adrian Grenier Sent Love Letters to the Ocean in 2014.”
During the Summit, I was put into a group of about 30 engineering-minded young people to roundtable with David Lang and Monica Medina. Lang spoke of the low-cost underwater robotics company he co-founded, openROV. I assembled one of their products last year to use in Honduras and have collaborated with some of their employees, so we had a good deal to talk about. Medina, Deputy Director of the Walton Family Foundation’s Environment Program, spoke about what it took to get whales protected in Boston shipping channels. She didn’t gloss over anything. She impressed on us the need for perseverance and patience in order to achieve practical results. If I were based in DC again, I’d love to sit in on the ocean governance class she’s teaching at Georgetown University as an adjunct professor.
I look forward to watching several new films introduced at the event, including Sonic Seas, A Plastic Ocean, A Fragile Legacy, Nuclear Sharks, Second Century Stewardship, Vey nou Lagon, and Wild Galapagos, Pristine Seas.
Now it’s time to bottle up all the inspiration and hunker down in Oxford to finish reporting the results from coral reef fieldwork (and finishing my thesis!).