Actor Leonardo DiCaprio walks onstage to speak at the second day of the State Department's "Our Ocean'"conference at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, June 17, 2014.
Leonardo DiCaprio, whose role in 1997’s Titanic rocketed him to stardom, lent some serious star power to an oceans-policy conference at the U.S. State Department this week. He pledged grants of $7 million over two years from his private foundation to ocean-conservation efforts.
“We’re plundering the ocean and its vital resources, and just because we can’t see the devastation from dry land, doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous,” DiCaprio said. “It needs to stop.”
DiCaprio has also donated money to other ocean-conservation efforts, including the nonprofit advocacy group Oceana.
The “Our Oceans” conference, spearheaded by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, resulted in new commitments to protect more than 772,000 square miles of ocean — nearly the size of India — according to the State Department.
In addition to the grants from the Wolf of Wall Street star, other contributions announced at the conference from the U.S. and the international community totaled nearly $2 billion, the State Department said.
In conjunction with the conference, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a memorandum aimed at curbing “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud.”
Scientists have found that the health of the planet’s fisheries are imperiled by a combination of overfishing — which has driven some species, such as Atlantic Cod and Bluefin Tuna, to the brink of extinction — as well as ocean acidification from rising amounts of carbon-dioxide emissions that also cause global warming.
Obama is also expected to enlarge the U.S.’ network of marine-protected areas in the South Pacific Ocean. In a video message to the conference, Obama said he would use his executive authority “to protect some of our nation’s most precious marine landscapes.”
In a statement, the White House said the area that will be expanded is known as the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. If this monument is expanded significantly (an action that could be undone by a future president), it could constitute the world's largest marine preserve.