Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, appearing at a U.S. State Department conference on the globe's oceans, has issued a call to end "plundering the ocean and its vital resources."
DiCaprio, a well-known environmental activist, slammed actions he compared to "the Wild West on the high seas" while participating in the Our Oceans conference. He promised to pledge $7 million from his own Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation during the upcoming two years for "meaningful conservation projects."
His foundation has already awarded a $3 million grant to the advocacy group Oceana to help protect ocean habitat and marine life.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry introduced DiCaprio at the conference in Washington, D.C.
Kerry had previously issued his own call for actions.
"We are not going to meet this challenge unless the community of nations comes together around a single comprehensive global ocean strategy," he said before the opening of the conference being attended by government officials and scientists from 80 countries.
The conference attendees are hearing from scientists and other experts on the risks to the world's oceans represented by pollution, acidification and unsustainable fishing.
Scientists and politicians need to work together to solve the problems, DiCaprio said.
"What we need is sustained activism and courageous political leadership," he said. "We cannot afford to be bystanders in this pre-apocalyptic scenario."
DiCaprio said he considered it the most important issue of our time, describing himself as "a concerned citizen of this planet."
The Tuesday session of the conference opened with a video message from President Barack Obama, who said his administration would seek to expand bans on commercial fishing and oil drilling in large areas of the Pacific under U.S. control.
Protecting the world's oceans is a job bigger than a single country can take on, though the United States needed to assume the lead, he said.
"Let's make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world," Obama said in his video message.
The president has proposed expanding the boundaries of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument created in 2009 by his predecessor, George W. Bush.
The monument consists of waters considered U.S. territory because they surround an assortment of remote, mostly uninhabited islands located in the southwestern Pacific between American Samoa and Hawaii that are under U.S. control.
The Bush era protections extended 50 miles from each island, but under maritime law the U.S. could extend those protections to 200 miles.