Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said the ongoing turmoil in Iraq would force him to cut short his participation in a conference on ocean conservation.

“[R]egrettably… I will not be at every part of this conference because we have much to do with respect to Iraq and other urgencies that we face,” he said Monday morning during a more than 20 minute opening speech.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he had to cut short participation in an oceans conference to deal with Iraq.. (AP Photo/Mohamed Azakir, Pool)

Kerry has said the U.S. is considering air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group that is threatening Iraq’s government. The crisis threatens to undo the fledgling Iraqi government just a few years after the Obama administration pulled troops out of Iraq.

Despite this crisis, Kerry ensuring clean oceans is another critical issue the U.S. needs to address.

“[N]o one should mistake that the protection of our oceans is a vital international security issue,” he said. “It’s a vital security issue, involving the movement of people, the livelihood of people, the capacity of people to exist and live where they live today.”

Kerry called on countries around the world to unite and find a common plan for ensuring the sustainability of the ocean.

“We’re not going to meet this challenge unless the community of nations comes together around a single comprehensive global ocean strategy,” he said. “That is the only way that we can clean up our ocean today and make sure that it remains what it needs to be for generations to come.”

As one example, Kerry said the fishing industry should be required to use the latest technology to minimize the catch of undesired fish that get tossed overboard.

“We need science and globally we could put our heads together and governments together and come up with both the budget and the capacity to be able to do what we need to be able to help convince people of the urgency of this,” he said.