DiCaprio 'devastated' by Barrier Reef damage

Effects of acidification on the
Great Barrier Reef and other marine reserves prompt actor Leonardo
DiCaprio and US President Obama to pledge millions of dollars towards
ocean conservation.

an effort to protect diverse habitats of coral reefs, whales, dolphins,
sharks, sea turtles and numerous fish species from commercial fishing
and other activities, President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he
intends to use his executive authority to create the world's largest
marine sanctuary in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

proposed marine sanctuary would be expanded from about 225,000
square-kilometres to more than two million square kilometres in a
US-controlled Pacific Ocean area between Hawaii and American Samoa.

plan was welcomed by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio who also made
some blunt comments about the state of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Leonardo DiCaprio's reef 'utopia' is gone.
Leonardo DiCaprio's reef 'utopia' is gone. Photo: AFP

my very first dive in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia 20 years ago
to the dive I got to do in the very same location just two years ago,
I’ve witnessed environmental devastation firsthand,’’ DiCaprio said at
the Our Ocean Conference in Washington DC.

once had looked like an endless underwater utopia is now riddled with
bleached coral reefs and massive dead zones,’’ he said.

Mr DiCaprio's comments come as the reef's World Heritage status is being examined by the UNESCO group at Doha, Qatar.

Leonardo DiCaprio greets US Secretary of State John Kerry on stage at the 'Our Ocean' conference.
Leonardo DiCaprio greets US Secretary of State John Kerry on stage at the 'Our Ocean' conference. Photo: AP

environment minister Andrew Powell says the World Heritage Committee is
being misinformed about the health of the Great Barrier Reef, and he
doesn’t expect them to list the reef as in danger.

is broadly expected to give Australia another year to continue its work
ticking off previous recommendations on improving the health of the

Getting around Congress

Pacific plan is one of the few ways in which the president can create
new environmental protections without action from Congress. He has also
used his executive authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to
designate 11 new national monuments on land, ensuring that millions of
acres of wilderness will remain untouched.

up in Hawaii, I learned early to appreciate the beauty and power of the
ocean," Obama said at a White House event Tuesday. "And 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 and rivers and forests."

of both parties have used executive authority to protect public lands
and waters. President George W. Bush created what was at the time the
world's largest marine sanctuary, protecting 140,000 square-miles of
water off the Hawaiian islands from commercial activity.

lawmakers have criticised Obama for using his executive authority to
create monuments on land, thus blocking commercial activity such as oil
and gas drilling. Experts said that commercial tuna fishing will likely
be the only industry affected by the new sanctuary.

House member Doc Hastings, who is chairman of the House Natural
Resources Committee, said in a statement, "Oceans, like our federal
lands, are intended to be multiple-use and open for a wide range of
economic activities that includes fishing, recreation, conservation and
energy production. It appears this administration will use whatever
authorities - real or made-up - to close our ocean and coastal areas
with blatant disregard for possible economic consequences."

House officials said they have not yet determined the borders of the
new sanctuary, nor the specific statute under which it will be created.
The officials said the White House will spend the next few months
seeking input on the plan from outside groups, including
environmentalists, the fishing industry and elected officials, before
the plan is final.

is also directing federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program
aimed at deterring illegal fishing, addressing seafood fraud, and
preventing illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace. Black
market fishing constitutes up to 20 percent of the wild marine fish
caught each year around the world.

Oceans and climate

moves are part of a slate of actions that the White House and State
Department are rolling out this week aimed at protecting the oceans.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who hopes to make environmental
protection a hallmark of his tenure, is spearheading the oceans

week, he is hosting an oceans conference at the State Department,
focused on the threats to oceans posed by overfishing, pollution and
climate change.

In his own keynote this morning, Kerry called for the creation of a global ocean strategy.

people think the ocean is larger than life, an endless resource
impossible to destroy. But people underestimate the enormous damage that
we as humans are inflicting on the ocean every day," he said. "We run
the risk of fundamentally breaking entire ecosystems."

addition to praising the creation of the marine sanctuary,
environmental groups also lauded the administration's initiatives on
illegal fishing.

2013 study conducted by the environmental group Oceana found that 33
per cent of fish sold in metropolitan in the U.S. areas are mislabeled,
with lower-cost, lower-quality fish often swapped out for higher-quality
fish. For example, the study found that fish containing high levels of
the toxin mercury, such as tilefish, are often mislabeled and sold as
red snapper and halibut.

the amount of mislabeled seafood and illegal seafood products entering
the US markets, it's clear we need a comprehensive solution to ensure
that seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly
labeled," said Beth Lowell, a campaign director at Oceana.

The New York Times, AAP