US Secretary of State John Kerry has sounded the alarm on the perils facing oceans, calling for a global strategy to save the life-giving seas.
"Let's develop a plan" to combat over-fishing, climate change and pollution, Kerry urged as he opened a conference in Washington bringing together world leaders, scientists and industry captains.
"We as human beings share nothing so completely as the ocean that covers nearly three-quarters of our planet," the top US diplomat said.
Heads of government and state as well as ministers from 80 countries gathered with researchers and experts from the fishing, plastics and farming industries at the State Department.
President Barack Obama was expected to make a significant announcement about US conservation efforts during a video address. He was to be followed by Hollywood A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio, whose foundation has pumped millions of dollars into efforts to protect the ocean habitat and marine species.
President Anote Tong, of the low-lying Pacific nation of Kiribati, said that despite concerns about the economic fallout, all commercial fishing would be banned from January in the Phoenix Islands protected area.
"Addressing the challenges of climate change calls for very serious commitment and sacrifice," Tong said. "The projected loss of revenue weighed very significantly in our consideration, but in the final analysis we made the decision to persist with effective sustainable strategies," he said to loud applause.