President Barack Obama and actor Leonardo DiCaprio have joined forces to carve out what could be the world’s largest marine sanctuary.
The White House recently announced its intentions to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which would protect a large area of the Pacific Ocean from fishing and energy exploration.
“Like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I’m going to use my authority as president to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes, just like we do for mountains, rivers and forests,” Obama said in a recorded message at the U.S. State Department’s “Our Ocean” conference on Tuesday.
DiCaprio was invited to the two-day conference by Secretary of State John Kerry where they were “to review the state of the science and determine concrete actions that can be taken at all levels to help protect ocean ecosystems,” the State Department said.
DiCaprio was invited to speak at the conference, because he is known for his efforts to protect oceans. “The Secretary invited Mr. DiCaprio to the conference because of the dedication and his foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, have demonstrated in protecting the world’s ocean and the environment in general,” Sachs said in a release. “In one recent example, the advocacy group Oceana was awarded a $3 million grant by the DiCaprio Foundation in February to protect the ocean habitat and vital marine species.”
Oceana also praised Obama for agreeing to launch a federal initiative to halt illegal fishing. “President Obama’s announcement is a historic step forward in the fight against seafood fraud and illegal fishing worldwide,” said Bell Lowell, an Oceana campaign director. “This initiative is a practical solution to an ugly problem and will forever change the way we think about our seafood.”
DiCaprio said that the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation would spend seven million dollars over the next two years on marine conservation. The thirty-nine-year-old actor said that ever since childhood, he has always held a reverence for the sea. “Before I wanted to become an actor, I dreamt of becoming a marine biologist,” said DiCaprio.
As an avid diver, DiCaprio said that he has “witnessed environmental devastation firsthand” around the world. “This isn’t simply an exercise in wildlife conservation,” he told the delegates assembled in Washington. “If we don’t do something to save the ocean now, it won’t be just the sharks and the dolphins that suffer. It will be our children and our grandchildren.”
Obama cautioned that “for for this effort to succeed, it has to be bigger than just one country.” So far, the European Union has prohibited Belize, Cambodia and Guinea from selling fish because of illegal practices, and has already warned eight other nations that they could be facing a similar ban.
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