Small Pacific Island nation hopes to make big difference in protecting oceans

Small Pacific Island nation hopes to make big difference in protecting oceans

The president of the Pacific Island nation, Kiribati, announces an expansive fishing ground closing in an effort to help endangered and over-fished species.

The “Our Ocean Conference” held by the U.S. State Department on Monday saw many speakers giving a voice for the ocean. The two day summit’s primary topic is ocean acidification, which is caused by increased carbon dioxide emissions from global warming. One of the conference’s smallest voices, however, caught the eyes of the media.

The president of a miniscule Pacific Island, Kiribati, announced the closure of expansive fishing grounds known as Phoenix Islands Protected Area, which measures out to 157,630 square miles. The closure, announced by president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, will become a sanctuary for tuna and other endangered species, and is the largest marine protected area in the Pacific Ocean.

Secretary of State Kerry acknowledged many international crises like Ukraine and the swiftly dissolving state of Iraq, but maintained it was important to focus on the world’s oceans because the “survival of the planet is at stake.”

Due to the global demand for tuna, the ‘chicken of the sea,’ worldwide stocks have seen a sharp fall in number. Annually, more than four million metric tons of tuna are caught by fishermen across the globe.

President Tong knows that the Phoenix Island Protection Area—approximately the size of California—is really just a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the Pacific Ocean, but hopes that other nations will follow their lead to protect the migrating grounds of tuna.

“Action is our obligation for our children and our children’s children,” President Tong said. “The closure of the Phoenix Island Protected Area will have a major contribution for regeneration of tuna stocks, not only for us but for our global community, and for generations to come.”

The conference has drawn 400 people from 80 countries and will resume tomorrow with the likes of Prince Albert of Monaco and the World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

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