Aerial view, Belo-sur-Mer 

Protecting the ocean

Humans rely on a diversity and abundance of marine life. We must conserve it.

© Olivier Langrand

Billions of people depend on the ocean. How should we protect it?

Billions of people depend on the ocean for their food and livelihoods. The marine life that provide it — whether it’s fish to eat or whales that fuel tourism economies — must be managed carefully and sustainably.

To effectively conserve marine ecosystems — and provide benefits to the people who depend on them — Conservation International has led the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world. From village-level to country-level, MPAs have a proven track record of success. Conservation International builds on this success with its pioneering Seascape approach, which builds partnerships among local decision-makers to sustainably manage large, multiple-use ocean areas.

What is a marine protected area (MPA)?

A marine protected area is an internationally recognized area of ocean (or of land and ocean combined) where human activities such as tourism, development and fishing are managed to ensure sustainability.

What is a Seascape?

Conservation International defines a Seascape as a large, multiple-use marine area where governments, businesses, communities and other stakeholders work together to conserve marine ecosystems and to promote human well-being.

Protecting oceans, by the numbers

13 million square miles

Nearly 4% of the total ocean is considered “protected” by MPAs. Conservation International has helped to create or directly support more than 20% of this area.

9,600 total number of MPAs

In these MPAs, all human activities — from large-scale shipping to small-scale fishing — are regulated.

90% drop in illegal fishing

Conservation International's work in Indonesia's Bird's Head Seascape has led to a 90% decrease in illegal fishing and a 30% increase in tourism.

Why are seascapes important?

Marine ecosystems and the species that flourish within them have incredible value — both to natural functions such as climate change mitigation and to the coastal communities that depend on them.​ Wit​h the Seascapes approach, Conservation International seeks to improve human well-being and ecosystem health, which are intricately linked. We support a long-term commitment to an area as well as building up local capacity among our partners. Working with partners means more resources as well as complementary strengths and institutions that can stand the test of time.

Working with local partners in eight countries, Conservation International has been instrumental in improving management across four Seascapes: Abrolhos Seascape in Brazil; Bird’s Head Seascape in Indonesia; Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador; and Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

What is the seascape approach?

The Seascape approach merges community-based conservation with well-defined end goals known as the “Nine Essential Elements of a Functional Seascape."

Beautiful view of Wayag Lagoon from the peak of one of the many islands in the Bird's Head Seascape, West Papua.
© Conservation International/photo by John Martin

In the Field

The Bird’s Head Seascape in Indonesia is a network of 12 MPAs covering more than 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) — and is considered the global epicenter of marine biodiversity.

Learn more

Why does the Seascapes approach work?

Management at scale

Conservation works best when it is at scale, taking into account an entire area rather than dividing it up. Seascapes are designed to be large enough to encompass different levels of government, but not too large to manage effectively. Having local support and input alongside the reach and impact of government increases the likelihood of conservation success.

The scope of sustainability

Due to their size, Seascapes come with a broad range of issues — and perspectives — to consider. That’s why we integrate our work across different sectors (public, private, government, community) and uses of marine resources, linking modern tools with traditional knowledge to ensure a sustainable management plan that is stable and successful in the long term.

A shared commitment

To be successful, Seascapes require long-term commitment — more than a decade — from the partners involved. Conservation International has successfully implemented marine management programs for more than 12 years, ensuring commitments from dozens of partners, resulting in the protection of millions of acres of ocean — and supporting the communities that depend on the ocean for their food and their livelihoods in the process.

Seascapes around the world

Protect our oceans

For $34, you can help protect an entire square kilometer of ocean, securing critical species and the livelihoods of ocean-dependent communities.