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September 29, 2016

Responding To: Climate Change and the Oceans: Challenges Ahead

Ocean Degradation as a Source of Conflict

Camille Gaskin-Reyes

Secretary Kerry raises key points about the ocean's importance for the survival and nurturing of humanity. He also points out that while we have made advances on climate change and fisheries protection agreements, we cannot be complacent. The secretary's emphasis on the need for collective global action and the clear establishment of priorities is timely. As an example of recent U.S. Action, Secretary Kerry cites the recent establishment of protected ocean areas in Hawaii and other international agreements. He is clear in acknowledging that people know what to do but have to agree on how to move forward together. 

The world's nations can build upon such examples as Hawaii and establish many more protected areas, but globally they also have to tackle international predatory fishing, the illegal capture or trafficking of endangered fish species in international waters (the high seas), and take steps to avert a growing Tragedy of the Commons. 

In addition, countries and all stakeholders will have to agree on appropriate economic incentives, creative fishery management tools and stronger legal, regulatory and enforcement frameworks as global policy instruments to address declining fish stocks, ocean acidification, coral reef destruction, and widespread ocean pollution. 

The secretary's words are timely and represent a clarion call to other nations to grasp the potentially catastrophic consequences of dying oceans or degraded marine environments that can no longer provide sufficient food for humankind. 

This development would have the potential to heighten social, political, security and global conflicts worldwide. 

Dr. Camille Gaskin-Reyes is an adjunct professor at the Center for Latin American Studies in the Walsh School of Foreign Service. She specializes in development policy and practice in Latin America and the Caribbean with special emphasis on sustainable development, natural resource, and water management as well as urban planning and municipal development strategies.

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