The United States and China: Protecting and Conserving the Ocean
“China and the United States – the two largest economies in the world, two of the top fishing nations in the world, and two of the global leaders in ocean science – have a very real opportunity to come together to deal with conserving and protecting the ocean.”
— U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry
Today, leaders of maritime agencies from the United States and China met to strengthen their commitments – nationally, bilaterally, and internationally – to a conservation-minded approach to the ocean. The United States and China committed to combatting global climate change, ocean acidification, unsustainable fishing, marine pollution, and marine litter. The bilateral maritime agenda is broad and an increasingly important part of the bilateral relationship. The Pacific Ocean is both an area of differences – on issues like the South China Sea disputes – as well as an area for meaningful efforts to overcome challenges. The United States and China recognized their essential leadership roles in ensuring the long-term sustainability and health of the ocean, which plays a vital role in our nations’ prosperity and that of the world as a whole.
Today, the United States and China decided to:
- Combat marine litter through stronger waste management and public awareness practices in China and the United States, join international commitments to prevent and reduce marine debris (i.e., through APEC), and develop sister city and third country cooperation arrangements to reduce the impact and sources of marine debris around the world. Eighty percent of marine plastic pollution comes from land. The two countries need to continue to strive to reduce, reuse, and recycle plastics to prevent them from entering the ocean.
- Recognize the importance of establishing a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Antarctica’s Ross Sea while communicating and coordinating on the proposed establishment of the MPA later this year. The Ross Sea contains some of the world’s last remaining unspoiled, pristine marine environments.
- Combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing by implementing port state measures as well as recognizing the Port State Measures Agreement as a step forward to stem IUU fishing by foreign vessels; increase domestic and international law enforcement by our coast guards and other enforcement authorities; and address the trafficking of at-risk species like totoaba and sea turtles. The United States and China are two of the top three fishing nations in terms of capture production and importers of fish. Billions of dollars are lost each year to IUU fishing; the two countries need to stop IUU fishing and reward honest fishers globally.
- Expand cooperation among both countries’ coast guards and maritime enforcement authorities by beginning discussions on having Chinese officers embark on U.S. Coast Guard ships to enforce international laws related to IUU fishing in the North Pacific, committing to professionalized behavior at sea in accordance with international law, and conducting vessel visits and senior-level exchanges over the next year.
- Strengthen U.S.-China cooperation to support international work on ocean conservation (e.g. Our Ocean conference and APEC), develop a “Green Ports” initiative to reduce marine pollution, more accurately observe changes to the ocean and climate, jointly conduct ocean acidification monitoring in the Arctic and other ocean areas, establish a transparent and effective South China Sea Tsunami Warning Center, improve bilateral marine scientific collaboration, establish a formal bilateral fisheries dialogue, and improve maritime safety, navigation, and crisis response.
The United States and China will continue their cooperation on ocean issues in the lead up to the Our Ocean conference in Chile this October and beyond.