42nd Annual Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
CCAMLR Secretariat, Hobart
Monday, 16 October 2023
Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to join the opening of this important annual meeting.
Since I arrived in Australia, I have been learning about the work of CCAMLR from colleagues at the State Department, NOAA and NSF, as well as from our partners in the Australian scientific community, and I have the utmost admiration for the work you do.
I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet – and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. I hope governments will honor the knowledge of First Nations people in all our countries and learn from their stewardship of land, sea and sky to protect our planet and its fragile ecosystems, and develop the climate solutions we need. And thank you, Governor Baker, for welcoming us all to Tasmania.
We are meeting at a time of escalating conflict and suffering around the world – from Ukraine to Israel and Gaza – which makes this Commission’s work ever more significant. Like cooperation in space, scientific cooperation in Antarctica has provided a beacon of hope far beyond the scientific community, restoring faith that human beings can come together in the pursuit of knowledge, and help each other survive in remote places and tough circumstances. Scientists, like artists, can lead a way forward across nations, based on our shared humanity and a commitment to a global order that allows people to live in peace and understanding.
I would like to congratulate the Chair of the Commission, Vitalii Tsymbaliuk, on Ukraine’s successful chairmanship of this important international commission, and am honored to join Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko here today.
Thank you to the head of the U.S. Delegation, Dr. Elizabeth Kim, and to NOAA Alternate Commissioner Mi Ae Kim for welcoming me. All Americans are proud of the immense contributions of the National Science Foundation and NOAA to scientific research in Antarctica and beyond, so it is an honor to join you here.
A special salute to all those the Commission has honored for their 30 years of service, including U.S. Delegate Dr George Watters.
I also want to thank Dr Polly Penhale, now in her 38th year of service, for her commitment and for taking the time to help me learn more about the work of the Commission, the challenges faced by the Antarctic and the urgency of your work. And I look forward to meeting more Members of the Commission and Acceding States during my time here. I also want to thank the Gentoo penguins at the Central Park Zoo who helped me prepare for this visit.
It is an honor to serve my country abroad, and I am grateful to President Biden for sending me to Australia. Our alliance was formed through shared sacrifice, and in shared values, and commitment to global peace and stability which has lifted millions out of poverty. Today, it is a global partnership – and in May, Prime Minister Albanese and President Biden announced “climate” as the third pillar of the alliance. Our joint efforts to transition to clean energy will take center stage at next week’s State Visit in Washington.
Climate change is an existential crisis for many, a national security crisis for some, and an economic and political crisis for all. It is also a moral crisis and those of us in positions of leadership will be judged by our children for how we respond. Right now, we aren’t doing enough – and we aren’t doing it fast enough. Climate change is the challenge of our time – and we don’t have more time to waste when the science is so clear.
That is why this conference remains so critical. Dramatic ice melting on the Antarctic Peninsula, September’s report that sea ice is at its lowest ever by an unprecedented amount and the collapse of the Antarctic Fur Seal population, have captured public attention. And there is growing public awareness about the importance of the Southern Ocean krill fishery to world food security. This is a moment of opportunity for the Commission to move forward on some long-standing proposals, and meet the global demand for action.
It’s an inflection point when the challenges we face as a global community can best be solved by countries working together through international institutions to reach consensus and take action. The whole world looks to this Commission to preserve Antarctica from the greatest threats of climate change – before it is too late. CCAMLR’s history of cooperation and collaboration has been its strength, and that tradition is more important than ever today.
I echo Governor Baker’s call to harness the Hobart Spirit and reach consensus on some long-standing proposals that are becoming ever more urgent, especially creating the network of MPAs so that we can reach our shared goal of protecting 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Antarctic krill is critical to life on earth – and setting standards for its sustainable management is one of your greatest responsibilities. More widely known is that the Southern Ocean drives global climate, and I urge you to implement the Climate Change Resolution and integrate climate science into CCAMLR activities.
In the past year, I have seen the United States and Australia pass major bipartisan climate legislation. I have met with scientists from the U.S. and the Australian Antarctic Division who are conducting important research on the marine environment. They are using cutting-edge technology to extract million-year-old samples from the ice core in order to help us better understand the Antarctic climate and its global implications. They have also conducted life-saving rescues – demonstrating the national commitment to protecting the environment and the scientists who help us understand it that all countries here have made.
I have also met individuals who are working to bring innovative solutions to scale. Indigenous Women Rangers are working to protect their coastal environment in the Top End. Women in the Solomon Islands are restoring the mangrove forests and sustainably harvesting sea grapes to raise funds so their children can attend school. I have met Gamay Rangers who are planting sea grass in Botany Bay, working with local government to harmonize traditional knowledge and marine biology to restore the environment and fish stocks. And just two days ago, just down the road in Tasmania, I met the people at Sea Forest, who have identified one species of seaweed out of 14,000 that can dramatically reduce methane emissions in the agricultural sector when added to animal feed.
People are taking action, but these problems can’t be solved at an individual level. They and so many others like them around the world are looking to scientists and to institutions for guidance, hope and inspiration. CCAMLR has provided that in the past, and I hope that this year, you can do it again. I wish you all the best for a successful conference. Thank you for having me.