US and China collaborate to lead conservation efforts in the Pacific Ocean

Signal of change / US and China collaborate to lead conservation efforts in the Pacific Ocean

By Juliette Aplin / 10 Jul 2015

The United States and China, two of the top three fishing nations in terms of catch and importing fish, have agreed to collaborate on a series of bilateral measures to conserve and protect the Pacific Ocean between them.


Maritime agency leaders from both countries met on 24 June 2015 to strengthen agreements looking to tackle global climate change, ocean acidification, unsustainable fishing, and marine pollution.


These outcomes demonstrate an increasing commitment to ocean conversation by both countries, and form part of a broader trend of various bilateral agreements following the seventh China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) conference.


Maritime agencies from both the United States and China have agreed to work together to:

  • Reduce and prevent marine litter in the area, through more proactive waste management and public awareness campaigns.
  • Increase efforts in establishing a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in in Ross Sea, Antarctica as one of the world’s last remaining unspoiled marine environments.
  • Implement tougher law enforcement measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
  • Address the trafficking of endangered species (eg. totaba and sea turtles)
  • Support greater co-operation between both Chinese and US maritime enforcement authorities.
  • Strengthen bi-lateral collaboration in ocean scientific research, monitoring, and conservation. This will include establishing a South China Sea Tsunami Warning Centre to improve maritime safety, navigation and crisis response in the area.
  • Develop a ‘Green Ports initiative' aimed to reduce marine pollution and increase monitoring of ocean and climate changes in the area.



Signal spotted by Carolyne Okeijn

 Image Credit: US Pacific Command

So what?

These agreements demonstrate a significant step in China and the United States recognising their influential leadership roles in ensuring the long-term sustainability and health of the ocean. As Global Commercial Director at the Marine Stewardship Council, Nicolas Guichoux commented:

“The United States and China’s commitment to among other things tackle unsustainable fishing is welcome news for all. Ensuring the long term sustainability of our oceans is critical and needs leadership from those who have the power to steer this change. The US is one of the leading countries in terms of the number of fisheries certified in the MSC program. In April this year, for the first time, a Chinese fishery achieved MSC certification which marked an important landmark in the global sustainable seafood movement.”


The Green Ports initiative and increased collaborative research will increase ocean acidification monitoring, enabling scientists to better observe changes to both the ocean and climate across the Pacific Ocean. In addition to this, greater joint-marine law enforcement in the area will serve to raise professional standards across both the US and Chinese fishing industries, safeguarding the livelihood to of those who fish legally in the region.

Multilateral agreements to determine both the governance and protection of the Pacific Ocean have often been plagued by territorial disputes over the South China Sea in the past. Could therefore the success of these agreements lead to greater multi-national collaboration in the future? 


U.S Department of State ( 2015, June 24)  The United States and China: Protecting and Conserving the Ocean

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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