MS. HARF: Hi everybody. Thank you to everyone for coming today. For those of you who I haven’t met, I’m Marie Harf. I’m the deputy spokesperson here. We’ll be moderating today’s discussion. We have several very distinguished speakers with us: Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Cathy Novelli will kick us of today. We also have the OES Deputy Assistant Secretary David Balton with us. This is all on the record, no embargo in any way for any of this.
As you know, the Secretary will be dropping by at some point during this conversation to make a few remarks and just take a couple of questions because his schedule is pretty tight, but he wanted to come have a discussion with you as well.
So with that, I’m going to turn it over the Under Secretary, I think will have some remarks, and then we’ll open it up to your questions and we will just go around the room when we do so.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Okay, great. Well, thank you all for being here. And I thought I could start by just giving you a little bit of a picture of what we’re expecting to have happen on Monday and Tuesday, which is that – the days that the Secretary is hosting the Our
Ocean conference. And when we started to look at this question, this was really the very first thing the Secretary talked to me about working on when he and I talked about me coming to the State Department. And I was absolutely delighted to be able to lead on this, because these are critical issues and they’re becoming more critical as time goes on.
And so when we looked at this conference and what we could do, we decided to focus it so that we could also focus results. And so we focused it on three areas, which are overfishing and illegal fishing, pollution of the ocean, and ocean acidification. And those three areas were areas that we arrived at in consultation with a number of eminent oceans experts, including our own oceans experts internally here at the State Department, but also in the NGO and the scientific community.
And the idea behind this conference is a slightly different one than all of the other very excellent conferences that have gone on, and that is that we wanted to look at the fact that we can’t solve these problems simply by government-to-government action; that all layers of society need to play a role here, and that includes individuals, it includes scientists, governments, the NGO community, and the private sector. And so we’ve designed a conference that actually gets all of those layers of society in one place to work on concrete solutions to these problems.
And the other thing that has struck me about working on this conference is that it is – obviously the ocean is vast and these problems are large and they are things that actually threaten our wellbeing, our livelihood, our environment, but there are people solving these issues around the world. And so one of the other things that we did is went out through our embassies to every space in the world to try to find the most credible people who are solving some of these problems in their own communities, in their own ways, to bring them to this conference so that we can have a conference that is looking at what is the path to solutions on this. And then sort of build from that at the end of the conference a list of policy direction that we can all take and that we can all agree is what we need to be doing at these various layers, so that we’re not just having a conference where everybody comes and talks; we’re having a conference where concrete things are occurring, where we’re setting up a path for more concrete things to occur through other conferences, other fora, and through a set of principles that governments, the private sector, NGOs, and regular people are going to be able to focus on.
And so the first thing that we’ve done in preparation for this is to do a social media campaign. You may have seen the Secretary’s call to action that he’s put out, and we’re getting a great response on that. And the idea behind that was to figure out, okay, what are the things, simple things, that individuals can do that are going to make a difference. So we asked them to do three things: only eat sustainably-caught seafood, not pollute the waterways and the oceans, and volunteer one day a year to clean up the waterways or the beaches.
And we’re getting – we’re putting that out there. We’re expecting a response. That’s obviously the layer, the individuals. There’s deeply scientific layers that look at things like ocean acidification, what does that mean, and how do we mitigate it. There are technical layers about how do we track fish so that we know whether they’ve been caught legally or illegally so that people can know whether their seafood has actually been caught sustainably or not. And all of these different things are what we’re going to be discussing at the conference.
So that is the idea that we’re going to have concrete results, that we’re building towards more concrete results in the future, with a pathway of how to get from point A to point B. And I don’t mean to suggest this is simple; it’s not. It’s very complicated. But it is also solvable, and that’s what we want to put the emphasis on, that we actually really can change the environment and change the way that these things are being addressed so that we do have sustainable fish for a huge percentage of the population that relies on it as its main source of protein, so that we have something that is economically sound and is creating and sustaining jobs, and so that we are also sustaining our environment.
So I’ll stop there and just – I’m happy to take questions.
MS. HARF: Great. Any opening thoughts, or do you just want to go right into questions? We’ll go right into questions. (Laughter.)
PARTICIPANT: Couldn’t have said it better myself.
MS. HARF: Great. Well, let’s just open it up. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Michele Kelemen, NPR —
MS. HARF: Yes, and please do identify yourself.
QUESTION: Can you just talk about any – what sort of – is there money involved here, are there specific projects you’re funding, announcements that you’re expecting to make. Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yeah. We’re going to make very specific announcements. Those are going to be made at the conference, so I’m not going to go into those now. But there is money involved, there are specific actions involved, and there is going to also be sort of a path for the future. So we’re doing things today that are very tangible, and we’re also looking at technology and what can that do on some of these questions. So there’s some pretty cool technological things that we’re going to have developed and we’re going to be able to roll out at the conference. And there will be a concrete list of things that people are bringing to the table for this conference, and then a path for future things.
MR. BALTON: Not just the United States Government —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Right.
MR. BALTON: — there will be announcements by other governments, other organizations we fully expect.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Right. And – right. And not just by governments, so —
QUESTION: And how many countries involved? How many —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Over 80 countries will be here, and we’re going to have foreign ministers, we’re going to have environment ministers from those countries. And as I said we’re going to have NGOs from all over the world as well as business community. So – and then this will be livestreamed, so we’re hoping that all the people who have made these pledges to action, or a number of them, will be able to follow this live. And we’ve got this in an interactive way, so they’ll be able to actually feed questions in as the discussion goes on. We have put a premium on people showing rather than telling what the problems are, visually. So we expect this to be a very visually engaging conference as well, so that – I think it’s sometimes easier if you can just see the dead zone in the sea instead of just trying to imagine, for example, what that looks like.
QUESTION: Under Secretary, Juliet Eilperin with The Washington Post, can you both say first of all how many world leaders – have you now a final count of how many are coming? I know it’s a handful. And then the second question is: Clearly, the international community has tried to deal with climate change and had a number of problems in reaching it. And when you look at the oceans, more than half of it is on the high seas which isn’t in anyone’s exclusive economic zone. How do you think this can be different in terms of producing concrete results or a meaningful difference in a way we might not have seen through UN efforts on climate?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, I think – for example, for fish, I think there is already the capability, technologically, for example, to trace where boats are. And so whether they’re in the high seas or not, you can know where they are, and that allows you then to figure out how they – are they fishing in a place where they’re supposed to fish or not? So I think there are some —
QUESTION: But that’s not in place, that technology.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: The technology is not in place everywhere.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: It exists. And some folks are using it and some aren’t, and that’s one of the things we want to try to push forward here, and we want to try to push forward how other countries can make sure that these things are used. There is a new treaty that – out there called the Port-State Measures Agreement that sort of exhorts countries and gives them tools to actually implement this type of thing. So we’re looking at trying to get more signatories to that through this conference and also to get the technology pushed out and have a discussion about how that works – also on the U.S. side.
So I think – I guess what I would say is – maybe slightly different – is that there are actual solutions that people are putting in place in this realm today that can serve as catalysts to do it on a wider basis. And so we have the tools, and I think that that makes this in some ways very granular, and that means that you can attack it more easily. And I don’t know if “attack” is the right word, but solve these issues more easily.
So – and I will say, I mean, there has been a groundswell of support from the NGO community about this, and they also have a number of very tangible initiatives that they have been working on with foreign governments, which we hope to bring to fruition and we expect we will at this conference. So it’s a real partnership at many levels. And I haven’t honestly heard, as I’ve traveled around talking to governments about this, anybody who says this is an insoluble problem. There’s no one throwing up their hands saying this is just impossible and the politics of this are such that we can’t do it. I’ve heard people saying, okay, we can march forward here and we can figure out this path, and that we want to be on that frame. And that’s why we’re doing it this way.
In terms of world leaders, we expect to have many heads of state here, many are from the smaller island countries where this is vital to their health. But as I said, we’re also going to have quite a cadre of environment ministers and foreign ministers here, too.
QUESTION: But when you say “many,” can you give a range?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I think in terms of – a hand of heads of state. I think it’s less than a dozen. I don’t have the final count.
MS. HARF: We can get some of those final numbers for you as well.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yeah.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yeah, yeah.
MR. BALTON: Can I add one point to that? Would it be okay?
MS. HARF: Go for it.
MR. BALTON: So as someone who’s worked in this field for a long time, it is true, the solutions are out there. Often the missing ingredient has been political will, and what I see this conference as is a perfect opportunity to catalyze that will. That’s why we invited the types of people we did to this conference. We’re hoping to build political will towards these solutions.
QUESTION: I’m Suzanne Goldenberg from The Guardian. I know a few months ago there was talk with people from the Global Oceans Summit, David Miliband and (inaudible) – it was some of the ideas they were putting forward and there was consensus behind included a special police force of – a blue police force, sort of a water-borne version of blue helmets that would actually police the high seas – not necessarily boarding boats themselves, but using these kind of technologies that you mentioned. Is that something that the State Department would get behind?
And also would the State Department get behind a separate international organization for ocean how?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I think – I guess what I would say is we think there is an awful lot already that’s out there in terms of organizations that are regulating fishing in particular. So I’m very aware of the great work that’s been done by David Miliband and that group of folks, and we expect several of the people who were the authors of that study to be at the conference. I – this – I have not, to be honest, heard of a police force of the high seas. That’s the first time I’m hearing of that. I think we’re – there are many mechanisms that are already in place, and I think the question is how do we get those to be optimal? And that’s what we’re looking at.
There can be also new things that if there’s a consensus around and we – that’s what we want to develop is a consensus. So I think that’s the best answer I can give you on that.
MS. HARF: Jo.
QUESTION: Jo Biddle from Agence France Presse. Hi, nice to meet you.
MR. BALTON: Nice to meet you too.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the possibility of expanding marine parks, particularly in U.S. borders. I believe some of the NGOs are saying this could be a major way that the United States could show leadership in this area. At the moment, about only – they estimate that – conservationists estimate that at least 30 percent of the oceans need to be covered by marine-protected areas. They’ve actually identified three specific areas of the United States – I’m sure, obviously, the Pacific atolls, the Marianas Trench, and the northwest Hawaiian Islands.
Do you anticipate that you will be making some announcements on this? Is this something that you would consider would be a good thing, and – or what are the problems of doing something like that? Does it impact with fishing, locals who are fishing, potentially, or something like that?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: So we absolutely believe that marine-protected areas are an important tool in conservation. And it’s – conservation’s important because you want to make sure that you have not just preservation of the environment, which is vital, but also you want to preserve fish so that the next generation of people who need to eat can do that. So marine-protected areas are important for many things; those are just two of them. We fully support marine-protected areas. We expect some announcements to come out of this conference, but we’re going to hold that until the conference. So —
QUESTION: And are you – kind of just to follow up, then, are you also pushing your partners around the world to do similar things on expanding marine parks?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yes.
MR. BALTON: Yes.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: We absolutely are.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Matt Viser with The Boston Globe. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the Law of the Seas Treaty. And Secretary Kerry in the Senate was pushing for that in 2012 and it did not pass. How does any of this relate to what’s in that treaty? Should the U.S. still be pushing to sign that? Can you just —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, you know that the President at his West Point speech talked about the Law of the Sea Treaty and the need to move that forward. We have been leading on – particularly in the fisheries – conservation area despite the fact that we have not ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty. And we’re looking at these other areas – ocean acidification – where there’s a lot of technology, et cetera.
So we are continuing to lead whether that treaty is ratified or isn’t ratified. That said, it is a very important treaty and the President has already said we need to look at getting to a place where we can ratify this. And so we will be taking that up.
QUESTION: Do you know when? I mean, is there a time element to that and when that treaty could be taken up, or when efforts to push the Senate to take it up again might —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: People are talking about that internally and how we – it’s very important for economics, not just for conservation. It’s important for both things. And I think we need to make sure that that message is properly communicated to those who have to take the decision on whether they’re going to give their advice and consent. In terms of timing, I don’t have an answer for you on specific timing, but it is going to be something we’re going to work on.
QUESTION: Ian Urbina with The New York Times. Two questions: One, the UN agreement on biodiversity – will we hear much discussion of that and where the U.S. stands on it? And two, I know there are calls to expand the category of ships that are required to have AIS, especially fishing vessels more. Will that be an issue that gets discussed?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: So on the biodiversity, there is actually going to be a meeting going on in the UN at the same time as the conference, which the U.S. will be participating in. And I think this conference is really focusing on these kind of practical solutions, so I don’t expect we’re going to have a huge discussion of that, and that’s going to be going on in the UN, which is the proper forum for it to be going on. And your second question I’m going to defer to David, so —
MR. BALTON: So you’re right. There are requirements for many large vessels to have a variety of things, including AIS, and there is a – there are proposals out there in the – at the International Maritime Organization to expand the category of vessels that will be covered by these requirements, including more fishing vessels. And we do support that, yes. Whether it will happen anytime soon, I don’t know, but I expect it will come up at the conference as a step that we need to take.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yes.
QUESTION: Neela Bannerjee with The Los Angeles Times. I wanted to return to something that Mr. Balton said about this being an opportunity to catalyze political will. Where are the areas specifically that you feel like political will is most lacking and that needs an extra push? That’s the first thing. And then the second question is: We’ve talked a lot about fishing and pollution, but what are some of the ideas that would be put forward to deal with the ocean acidification?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Mm-hmm. So I think political will is needed in all three of these areas. That’s why we picked them. So each area – overfishing, pollution of the ocean, which – a lot of the pollution of the ocean comes from runoff of fertilizer overuse as well as from plastics that don’t biodegrade, and so that is absolutely going to be discussed. And the third thing, ocean acidification, is obviously related to climate change. And in terms of that, one of the things that is true is that we don’t know everything about where – oh, the Secretary’s coming, so I will finish that after.
SECRETARY KERRY: Hi, folks. How are you all?
MR. BALTON: Morning.
SECRETARY KERRY: Hey, Marie, how are you?
MS. HARF: Good.
SECRETARY KERRY: Hi, Cathy.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Hi.
SECRETARY KERRY: Hi, everybody.
SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning to you.
QUESTION: Good morning.
SECRETARY KERRY: I’ll run around and say hi to everybody.
(Introductions are made.)
MS. HARF: So everyone, as I said, this is all on the record. The Secretary will make some remarks, and then I think he probably has time for just a few questions. So no embargo.
SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely. Great.
MS. HARF: I’ll turn it over to you, sir.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Marie. Thank you very much. Thanks, Cathy.
Well, let me begin by saying I am really excited by this conference which has been long in the making, since the moment I arrived here. In fact, I had wanted to do this when I was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and we began to plan some original efforts and then we ran out of time because they appointed me to something else. (Laughter.) So we just brought it over here and a few people like Marie and others to work on it.
The oceans are a passion of mine and always have been, from the time I was three years old or whatever and dipped my toes into Buzzard’s Bay and watched a lot of people from Woods Hole Oceanographic mucking around in the seaweed in the shallows getting specimens and doing research, and I began to wonder, sort of what is this all about? And for years and years, needless to say, have appreciated our oceans and have traveled many of them in the United States Navy across the Pacific on a ship, and went through Leyte Gulf and into the Philippines, and down to the Coral Sea and down to New Zealand and back through Samoa, and saw a lot of detritus and impacts of civilization, as we call it, on the ocean.
And then as chairman of the fisheries subcommittee in the United States Senate on the commerce committee, became deeply involved in protecting migratory species, dealing with tuna, with salmon, the Columbia River; with various laws that are supposed to regulate growth and development along the ocean border, like the Marine Mammal Protection Act or the Coastal Zone Management Act, the flood insurance, et cetera, which I rewrote as a senator. And I think I rewrote the Magnuson fisheries acts on several different occasions – not think, I know I did. (Laughter.) And then we rewrote them and changed them, working with Ted Stevens, who was a great collaborator with me on this when we were either chair or ranking member, et cetera. And we constantly were fighting to get additional science done, research money, and monitoring and other things, but I’m jumping ahead. Ted and I took the driftnet fishing to the United Nations. We managed to get driftnet fishing banned, ultimately, at the UN in the international process, though there are still some pirates out there who illegally fish and strip-mine the oceans, which is what they were doing.
So I learned during all of this process that a huge percentage of what fishermen fish is called bycatch and it’s just thrown overboard. Sometimes 50 percent or two thirds of a particular catch could actually be bycatch and thrown overboard. And through this process over the years, I became aware of this body of water we call the world’s oceans – ocean, which is actually 75 percent of Earth. The vast majority of Earth is not earth at all, it’s ocean. And some people have pointed out occasionally you could’ve called the planet Ocean rather than Earth. But we actually – according to some, and evolution – once spent a fair amount of time in the ocean. The – and much of the Earth’s surface was covered by the ocean that isn’t covered even today, as we all know from geology.
But what’s important to us today is that the ocean is the essential ingredient of life itself on the planet. In terms of oxygen, carbon dioxide, ecosystem, ocean currents, temperatures, life itself on Earth – if we did not have a 57 degree average temperature, which is what we had up until recent years, you wouldn’t have life the way we have it on the planet. And it is interacting deeply with the oceans and flow of the oceans. We depend on the oceans not just for oxygen and nutrients and protein, fish; there are – maybe 13 percent of the world’s population is completely dependent on the ocean for its input. But it also is essential to regulating climate around the planet, as well as major ecosystems. For instance, the Gulf Stream is an example of that.
Increasingly the ocean is threatened. The reason for this conference is very simple: The world’s oceans, as vast as they are, as much as they elicit a sense of awe for size and kind of power – they are under siege from a combination of acidification that takes place through the CO2 that falls into the ocean, which is changing ocean species and environment; it is under threat from pollution, a vast amount of pollution that spews off of land, flows down from places like the heartland of America, where farming practices wind up putting a certain amount of nutrients into the Missouri River, which flows into the Mississippi River – or any other river out of there, Ohio or otherwise – down into the Mississippi, out into the dead zone, which is now famous. Well, there are a bunch of dead zones around the world as a result of these things.
And ultimately, the third great danger is overfishing. Most of the world’s major fisheries are being overfished. Not all, but most. And some have a better process of regulation than others, but the problem with it is there’s a great debate over the science. There’s a great battle for who’s right and how do you base a regulatory rule on something if you don’t really know. And so there’s been always – I learned this firsthand in Massachusetts in our relationship with fishermen, that there’s this violent sense of injustice done when the regulators regulate, because the captains don’t believe the science on which the regulation is based. And so you have this disrespect, to some degree, and even flaunting in other instances, of the regulations. And most profoundly, you have a lack of monitoring and a lack of enforcement. So it’s all well and good to have some rule or regulation, but if it doesn’t get – if it’s not enforced, it’s like not having it at all.
So these are the problems we face, and we’re going to talk about this at a very well-attended, broadly represented conference that will have the prime minister* of Norway, the – Prince Albert of Monaco, the foreign minister of Chile, a number of government officials, a number of private sector entities, heads of major fishery corporations and Roger Berkowitz of Legal Sea Foods, an example – I mean, people who are stakeholders. We will have environmental and oceans experts, ocean scientists, a lot of visual presentation, a lot of presentation that people can really grab onto and understand. National Geographic, Cousteau Society, all these players are going to be involved in this conference that’s going to take place. It will be highly interactive and really give people an opportunity to be able to understand this.
I mean, part of it is an educational awareness-creating initiative, but it’s also – and this is very important – we didn’t want to just have a conference for the sake of it and have everybody talk and go away and not feel as if something can happen. And so building on other conferences – and there have been a lot of good conferences. I’ll give you an example. Jim Kim of the World Bank will be here and the World Bank’s been involved in this a little bit, and they’re making new policies in terms of how they can also help to protect the oceans and so forth. And we want to come out of it with an action agenda, and that’s our goal – is to set up a set of principles, declarations if you will, coming out of Washington, out of the Washington conference that can guide and impact choices on a global basis and build as we go into other conferences, which inevitably we’ll take in other meetings where we try to coalesce global action around this effort to protect the oceans.
That’s why I did that event when I was down in Bali with the fishermen down there. A huge percentage of fishermen – of Indonesians are fishermen. A huge percentage of the population there relies on the fish, and many of those fish come straight to Boston restaurants and New York restaurants and California. They’re huge suppliers to us, so it’s a global network. We’re all involved in it, and that’s the bottom line.
MS. HARF: Great, thank you. I think we have just time for two quick questions if folks are interested in typing.
SECRETARY KERRY: Anybody have a question?
MS. HARF: He answered everything.
SECRETARY KERRY: I answered everything. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So quite a —
SECRETARY KERRY: Cathy will do in my absence. She’ll fill you all in, Marie, everybody.
MS. HARF: Let’s just do – did anyone – yeah, Juliet. Did you have one?
QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering if you could say – just broadly, the U.S. traditionally has been a leader on this issue. There’s been plenty of people who would say in the last few years, whether you’re looking at whaling or climate or a number of things that other countries, including even small ones, have done things much more aggressively on the ocean than the United States. What do you think it would take beyond holding this conference to make the U.S. a leader in this? And given that much of this is going to be done through the President’s executive authority, what do you see are the possibilities and the limits to that given congressional resistance to some of it?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I would contest the notion that the U.S. hasn’t been a leader in this. I think we have been in our Magnuson Fisheries Act, in other efforts we’ve taken – I mean, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the flood insurance – we’ve done a lot of things to curb building, which other countries haven’t done. We’ve done a lot of things in terms of certain fisheries – manage them that other countries haven’t done. We do boast both Woods Hole Oceanographic and Scripps, two of the world’s premier research entities. So I think I’m not going to back off on our role, but we can do more. We can do better science, we can do better monitoring, we can do – we certainly could do better on climate change and emissions and so forth which have a profound impact on fishing.
But look, we’ve done a lot. We’ve done a lot with HFCs; we did a lot with acid rain. And there are other countries in Asia particularly that haven’t done enough on something like acid rain, and that has a profound impact on fisheries and so forth. So it’s a mixed bag and that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about here – who needs to do what, how, and what we can all do.
MS. HARF: Great.
SECRETARY KERRY: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you just talk – can you just give a couple —
MS. HARF: One more from Michele.
QUESTION: — maybe just a couple examples of what you hope to come out of this? I mean, I understand the action agenda, but how much money do you expect —
SECRETARY KERRY: We have a very solid action agenda. I think you’ve gotten some sense when I talk about monitoring or I talk about science. We obviously need to do more of both. There are other things we need to do, and we need to agree on fishing practice. I mean, there are a lot of things we need to do, and let’s let the conference sort of develop that, and it’ll unfold in the course of it, and that’ll make you have to come and pay attention to all of it. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Great. Thank you all so much and we’ll stay and answer some more questions.
SECRETARY KERRY: Great, all right. Thanks, everybody.
QUESTION: Thank you. Great.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: So you want me to finish?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I was just on a separate vacation. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, I don’t even —
QUESTION: You kind of – you sort of talked about this too and I guess – I think what all of us are sort of getting at are the specifics within these three main priorities, right?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Right.
QUESTION: Like he mentioned, for example, runoff issues, right?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Right.
QUESTION: So – and you mentioned that too as well. So what are – if political will is lacking, then what are – like, what would you really like – like, say under each of these categories, right – the three categories – can you name two things that you would like to see action on, right? Is it runoff, is it pollution? What is it exactly?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, so on ocean acidification, one of the things that is really important there is, while we know the ocean is acidifying more, we don’t know – it’s not, like, uniformly doing that and it’s not doing that in a constant way. So we would like to see, for example, much more monitoring in a more thorough way so that, for example, shellfish farmers can have some early warning, if a big wave of acidification’s coming their way, that they could actually take some measures to mitigate that with their farms.
So that’s – those are some concrete things, and we actually have a shellfish farmer who is partnered with the state of Washington in this very – it’s a high-tech and low-tech way to be able to do just that. So part of that is figuring out mitigation, part of that is figuring out – as the Secretary said – what is the science and trying to set a baseline. So those are some concrete things in that space. Clearly there’s a whole climate change piece that’s going on in a separate place, and we’re not going to tackle that here because it’s already going on someplace else, but we’re sort of tackling what we can tackle at this moment.
On the fisheries side, I think that several of the issues – we’ve already highlighted what they are. How do you credibly trace where things are coming? What are the right regimes to have in place so that if your population says, “Is my seafood sustainably caught,” they can get a reliable answer – yes, that is? So we’re looking at that.
On the pollution side, I think there’s two aspects to it. One is: What are the scientific/technical things that need to be done to address this question of runoff? Are there things that can be done about how fertilizer is used, how it’s formulated, so that it is creating less of a problem when there’s some runoff into the waterways. Are there things that can be done on the science of plastic to make it more biodegradable? What can be done on recycling so that you’re actually having less things go into the ocean? So those are some specific things, and we’re trying to look at it that way.
QUESTION: So but, I mean, for example, with runoff, you’re having to deal with other federal agencies, right?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, don’t you have to deal with EPA, USDA?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yes.
QUESTION: And I mean, as somebody who covers the environment, we have people who are really reluctant to go after Big Ag on anything. So how do you resolve that?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Right. Well, there’s all of the U.S. Government agencies that are involved in that are going to be here. We are also having folks involved in the industry here. And I don’t think we’re going to solve that as a huge problem and we’re not going to completely solve it at this conference. I think the idea though is that we can point the way to what we need to be doing very concretely so that things can progress and can be followed up on and can be measured. And that’s what we’re looking at trying to do.
QUESTION: Okay. I had one thing.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yeah.
MR. BALTON: So just following up from what Secretary Kerry said in further answer to your question on fishing, which is clearly what I think he’s – thinks about most when he thinks about the oceans. Anybody who is looking at world fisheries would say there’s two big problems we need to find solutions. We need to end overfishing – and there are a lot of steps to take to do that. We’re actually doing a pretty good job in the United States on that, by the way. And while we may not be able to end illegal fishing totally, there are a lot of things we can do to stop illegally harvested fish from entering the stream of commerce. Those are two big things we really hope to drive forward in this agenda for fisheries at our conference.
QUESTION: What about whaling, since you mentioned that the prime minister of Norway is coming?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, we – there are lots of issues about whaling. We aren’t planning on having the conference focus on whaling per se, but we obviously oppose whaling that is not scientifically justified. And we urge countries to not engage in those practices.
QUESTION: Two questions. One I doubt you’ll answer. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I love when I get those in the briefing. (Laughter.)
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Boy, that’s nice of you to —
MS. HARF: I know.
QUESTION: My favorite color is blue. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Those are my favorite.
QUESTION: I hear a lot of griping within NOAA about enforcement cutbacks and budget cutbacks (inaudible). So that’s the one that – (laughter). The question, I guess, is will NOAA be there.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: NOAA will absolutely be there.
QUESTION: Is there any discussion of reversing the trend of funding cutbacks or enforcement cutbacks?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, NOAA will be there and they are fully supportive of this agenda. In fact, they’ve been very enthusiastic of working with us on this. So I guess that’s about as far as I can go.
QUESTION: Yeah. And then the other question, I guess, is magic pipe cases. And DOJ – over the last decade DOJ’s really been effective and aggressive in going after intentional polluting. So will there be a panel or something – some presentation that DOJ is going to put on about intentional dumping or magic pipe cases?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I don’t – that wasn’t – no.
MR. BALTON: There’s nobody from DOJ presenting.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yeah.
MR. BALTON: That topic is likely to be touched on. It’s not a problem only in the United States, right? So a lot of the speakers who are coming from other countries will describe their version of this issue.
QUESTION: Can I ask a Legal Seafoods question given that the Secretary brought that up?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Their CEO is legendary for backpedaling on this and saying that he does not serve consistently sustainable seafood. It’s widely known he’s boycotted basically anyone who upholds sustainable seafood does not go to Legal Seafoods. So I guess obviously he could be giving a policy announcement that would change that, but I was just wondering if you could explain why someone who’s actually made his mark by questioning the value of only serving sustainable seafood would come to a conference on the oceans.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, we have to have everybody come here. I mean, we have to get everybody on the bandwagon to go in the right direction. And he’s well aware of the purpose of the conference, and so I think the fact that he’s chosen to come is – I have no understanding that he’s coming here to preach everybody should eat unsustainable seafood. (Laughter.) So I think actually we have been pretty clear about wanting folks who are coming with solutions to be here and to be speaking. And —
QUESTION: Does he have a speaking role?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: No.
MR. BALTON: No. But there are a lot of people in the – who are promoting sustainable seafood —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: — who are coming.
MR. BALTON: — who are coming. Monterrey Bay has their card. The Marine Stewardship Council has – their processor, actually a proliferation of these, and virtually all of them are represented in our conference.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: And the CEO of Bumble Bee Tuna is going to be speaking. So —
QUESTION: And will Roger Berkowitz be listening to those people who are coming? (Laughter.)
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, if he didn’t want to listen to them, then I assume he wouldn’t have showed – I can’t speak for him, right? So you’ll have to ask them.
QUESTION: So is he just an attendee? I mean, he’s attending?
MR. BALTON: So there are almost 400 people coming to the conference. There are speaking roles for maybe 20 or 30, right? Just the way these conferences work.
QUESTION: Are there people you wish were coming who are – who couldn’t, who are either major violators or potentially good partners or both on some of these issues who are not coming?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I think we’ve tried —
QUESTION: I mean representatives of countries or —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: We tried to invite a very broad swath of folks. And when you have over 80 countries represented, that’s – I think we think that’s a pretty good swath of people. I don’t think we had anybody turn us down who we asked to come.
QUESTION: Really? So there’s not – there’s somebody – there aren’t certain empty places at the —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: From countries.
QUESTION: Yeah. At the table that you wish were – if there’s somebody you – some country that you wish or some entity that you wish were represented and is not?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: No. Actually, no. I mean, this is a pretty robust group of attendees. And we – like I said, nobody turned us down. I mean, some individual people had scheduling conflicts, but in terms of the countries we are extremely represented across the whole globe.
MR. BALTON: India had an election just a few weeks ago.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Right.
MR. BALTON: And so their new foreign minister was not – couldn’t make it on the schedule, but there will be Indians at the conference, just to give you an example.
QUESTION: As well as Chinese —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yes.
MR. BALTON: Yes. In fact, the head of the State Oceanographic Administration, Administrator Liu, will have a speaking role at our conference.
QUESTION: And Southeast Asia – are there people from there?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yes, absolutely.
MS. HARF: A few more. Anyone? A few more last questions?
QUESTION: This is a novice question that’s not really important. But my understanding is that the European Union is on the cusp of deciding whether to impose some sort of ban on South Korean fish and that next year sometime the U.S. will be engaging in a similar analysis. That – so will that topic be part of next week’s discussion?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Do you want to take that?
MR. BALTON: Yeah. So Maria Damanaki, who is the commissioner for the EU who does Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is coming. She actually also has a speaking role at our conference. And she’ll be talking about the – I assume – the EU’s approach to trying to prevent illegally harvested fish from entering their market.
We have our own approach to doing that that’s not entirely similar to the EU’s but maybe growing more similar over time. Yes, the EU is looking at Korea among other countries and maybe headed to a decision. I don’t know. You’ll have to ask her when she’s here. And we have our own process of going through fishing practices by other countries under the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act, and countries who are having vessels engage in these practices are put on notice by us and it can ultimately lead to trade sanctions against them.
MS. HARF: I think that’s all the time we have today. We will be doing a transcript of this, so I know you all took very good notes, but we will get you that as soon as it’s done. Any follow-ups, of course you know how to find me or anyone else in the Press Office. And we’re looking forward to next week. Thanks for coming today.