Center for Oceans

Creating lasting change for our oceans and the communities that depend on them


From providing food and livelihoods for millions of people, to regulating our planet's climate, oceans are essential to the health and well-being of all life on Earth. However, our growing demand on marine resources is depleting and degrading our oceans — our greatest ally against climate change.

To prevent mass extinctions, maintain ecosystem function and address climate change, at least 30 percent of the world’s ocean must be protected by 2030. Simultaneously, the entire ocean must be sustainably managed to support growing populations and economies, maintain food security and preserve the livelihoods and culture of coastal communities.

Protecting our oceans is a matter of survival, of equity and of climate justice. Now is the time to secure a new future for the world’s oceans — and all who depend on it.

of carbon emissions are absorbed by the ocean
600 million
people depend at least partially on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods
$2.5 trillion
in economic value is generated by the ocean every year
3 in 7
people rely on seafood as a daily source of protein

What we do

Conservation International’s Center for Oceans conserves marine biodiversity and ecosystems to protect their ecological, social and economic benefits for people and nature.

We apply science-based approaches and innovative programming to address the most urgent problems, build strong strategic partnerships, and above all, prioritize social equity and the interests of the communities with which we work. Conservation International focuses on three important areas: expanding durable marine protections, promoting sustainable fisheries management and advancing ocean-based solutions to climate adaptation and mitigation.

Historically, these priorities have often been managed separately, by many different organizations — however these challenges require integrated efforts to be effective. We work together with partners to find solutions that cut across traditional barriers and maximize our impact. Our goal is to create lasting change that benefits the health of our oceans and the communities that depend on them.

© Paul Hilton for Conservation International

Protecting marine ecosystems

Approximately 8 percent of the ocean is protected, a level far short of the 30 percent necessary to sustain the ocean’s current benefits for people and the environment. Conservation International is building on lessons from successfully managed marine protected areas worldwide and incorporating the traditional knowledge and needs of Indigenous peoples to expand and strengthen large-scale ocean conservation around the world.

Fisherman cast a net to catch fish 
© Keith A. Ellenbogen

Promoting sustainable seafood production

With 214 million tons of seafood harvested in 2020 alone, global fisheries and aquaculture production is at a record high. To help feed and nourish the world’s growing population, Conservation International promotes sustainable production models that link food security and economic development to the long-term health of fish populations.

© Rod Mast

Supporting communities' climate resilience

Around 680 million people live in low-lying coastal zones, and that number is expected to increase to a billion by 2050. Conservation International applies practical, science-based approaches to advance climate adaptation and mitigation, bringing together public, private and community partners.


How we do it

The Silonay community is working together to plant a mangrove forest that will protect the ecology and their future.
© Nandini Narayanan

Building capacity and supporting local organizations

Conservation International is making critical investments in local partner organizations that are protecting our oceans — in many cases using the direct experiences of local communities and Indigenous people who live closest to nature. We are combining their expertise and knowledge with our own, while supporting local talent and leadership.


© Cristina Mittermeier/sealegacy

Social equity, justice and economic opportunity

Promoting the rights of the people where we work is central to how we design our work and pursue partnership. It’s the right thing to do — and we know it leads to better, more durable outcomes for people and nature.


© Cristina Mittermeier/sealegacy

Partners — big and small, public and private

Working together is the best way to achieve the pace and scale of impact needed. We build and maintain purpose-driven, trusted partnerships with shared goals and complementary approaches.


© Richard Sidey/Galaxiid

Integrated program design

Our solutions must be as adaptable and multi-faceted as the problems facing our oceans today. To ensure durable impact, we conduct research and deploy programming that cuts across the traditionally siloed priorities of ocean conservation, sustainable fisheries management, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.


© Conservation International/photo by Kelsey Rosenbaum

Team members working locally and globally

Our 50+ person team is dedicated to advancing ocean conservation both abroad and in their home countries. Through our hubs in Washington D.C., Hawai‘i, Costa Rica and New Zealand, the Center for Oceans works with a global network of partners to enable strategic program design and the delivery of tangible impacts.


By the numbers

team members
in the Center for Oceans
with active programs
with which the Center for Oceans partners
square kilometers
of new and improved marine protections since 2019

Our Experts


  • Expertise
  • Language
  • Location

Emily Pidgeon, Ph.D.

Vice President, Ocean Science and Innovation

Dr. Emily Pidgeon works on developing solutions for coastal and marine adaptation to climate change and on marine based approaches for mitigation through “blue carbon.”

John N. (“Jack”) Kittinger, Ph.D.

Vice President, Global Fisheries and Aquaculture program

As the Vice President, Global Fisheries and Aquaculture program in Conservation International's Center for Oceans, Dr. Kittinger works to ensure a healthy ocean provides benefits to coastal communities.

Ashleigh McGovern

Senior Vice President, Center for Oceans

Ashleigh McGovern leads multi-disciplinary teams to design and implement nature-based solutions to the complex problems facing our ocean and climate today.

Laure Katz

Blue Nature Senior Director and Technical Director for the Ocean Fund, Center for Oceans

​​Laure Katz is a marine scientist and conservation practitioner with more than a decade of experience in Indonesia, the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Line islands and California.