Kerry Gathers World Players To Focus On Protecting Oceans

About 80 countries will be represented over the next two days at a State Department conference. They will discuss overfishing and pollution with government officials, scientists and business leaders.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Government officials, scientists and business leaders from more than 80 countries are gathering at the State Department today and tomorrow. They're there to figure out ways to protect the world's oceans and commercial fisheries. Secretary of State John Kerry says this is an issue he's been working on for a long time, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: When Secretary Kerry talks about his hopes for this conference he reaches back deep into his childhood in Massachusetts.

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SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: The oceans are a passion of mine and always have been from the time I was 3 years old or whatever and dipped my toes in the Buzzards Bay. And watch a lot of people from Woods Hole Oceanographic mucking around in the seaweed, in the shallows getting specimens and doing research. And I began to wonder sort or what's this all about?

KELEMEN: When he came to the State Department he brought a long list of concerns, pollution, overfishing and the acidification of the oceans. His under Secretary of State for the environment, Catherine Novelli, says the conference will bring together people working on solutions. And she is hoping there will be a clear plan of action.

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CATHERINE NOVELLI: There's no one throwing up their hands saying this is just impossible and the politics of this are such that we can't do it.

KELEMEN: Several heads of state from small island nations will take part in the meeting as will business leaders like the CEO of the Boston-based legal Seas foods restaurant group. Who has questioned the science on sustainable fishing. Novelli says she's hoping to get everyone on the bandwagon moving in the right direction. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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