Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard is a member of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a bipartisan organization of ocean leaders that makes policy recommendations to support continued U.S. leadership in protection of ocean resources. She offers her thoughts on the Initiative’s 2017 Ocean Action Agenda, which was released on March 7.
The health of Earth’s vast ocean system will determine the future prosperity of the human species—and our very survival. Today it’s more urgent than ever for us to invest in the living ocean. That’s why the Aquarium has made it a priority to advance policies here and abroad that will protect critical ocean resources.
Through Seafood Watch and other initiatives, we’re a global leader in the sustainable seafood movement. We’re working with the U.S. government to end illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and to provide more transparency in global supply chains to assure that seafood comes from well-managed sources.
We’re bringing sound science to international forums that address big challenges like climate change and ocean acidification. We’re advocating for action on many fronts to advance ocean health and to ensure that the world community manages our ocean in ways that preserve its productivity, now and into the future.
The good news is: In the United States, we have a solid record of progress and, now, an updated roadmap for the future. The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative on which I serve—a bipartisan group of senior ocean leaders from industry, academia and civil society, as well as former senior government officials—has just released its 2017 Ocean Action Agenda, with priorities based on practical experience and success stories.
Our lives depend on the ocean
Why does it matter? Because the ocean produces half the oxygen we breathe. It buffers us from the impacts of rising greenhouse gases and global temperatures. It serves up protein for millions and millions of families across the globe. The ocean is our pantry, our lungs, our playground, and a massive driver of global commerce. And it is a source of inspiration and innovation for technologies that will sustain us into the future.
The United States has long been a leader in safeguarding our ocean resources for the benefit of present and future generations. We’ve set the global standard for effective fisheries management, and we’ve designated impressive networks of sanctuaries, estuaries and other protected areas that preserve vital marine ecosystems.
We can make a difference
Here in Monterey Bay, we’ve seen the difference our actions can make. We’ve witnessed the recovery of commercially important fish species and the rebound of marine life—from sea otters to whales and shorebirds. And we’ve enjoyed an economic boom sparked by visitors drawn here to enjoy our vibrant living bay.
Nationally, our country has created ocean agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and supported scientists whose work makes all of this possible. Sound science and wise management underpin healthy oceans and the fisheries that support more than a million jobs around the country.
But our ocean and coasts face urgent threats, from ocean acidification and plastic pollution to illegal and unsustainable fishing. As my Commission colleague and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says: “When deciding how to address the complex issues facing our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes, our nation’s leaders have two choices: They can govern by crisis or by leadership. Let’s choose leadership.”
Together, we can make our voices heard – and make a difference.