The oceans are the origin and engine of all life on this planet — and they are in extreme peril.

Unprecedented sea-level rise and dangerously warming waters caused by climate change are among a list of grim impacts predicted by a recent United Nations report. By the end of the century, more of the world’s seas could be hot, acidic and lifeless — with catastrophic implications for marine life, Earth’s climate and the food security of billions of people.

Immediate and transformative action is needed to prevent the UN’s stark warning from becoming reality.


The facts

Conservation International’s Center for Oceans guides the organization’s global marine work. Building on more than a decade of experience working with businesses, governments and communities, the Center for Oceans aims to protect the ocean at a global scale. The Center does this by leveraging the latest technological and social innovations while partnering with organizations, companies and governments around the world.




Planetary goals

Where humanity needs to be by 2030

The planetary need is to actively conserve 30 percent of the global ocean using area-based measures and ensure at least 75 percent of seafood globally is produced using socially responsible and environmentally sustainable methods by 2030.




What we are doing about it



Conservation International is:

  • Generating and leveraging significant financial and human capital to support countries to scale up ocean conservation
  • Creating financial and policy incentives to protect and restore coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves
  • Disrupting damaging policies and practices in the seafood sector


Conservation International will work with partners to:

Improve the health and management of at least 20 fisheries and aquaculture areas by 2025


Protect and restore coastlines to achieve a net increase in global mangrove coverage by 20% by 2030


Advance the protection of 18 million square kilometers of ocean (5% of the global ocean) by 2025



Blue Nature Alliance

In 2020, Conservation International launched a bold new alliance to address some of the gravest threats to the ocean, from illegal fishing and overfishing to biodiversity loss. The partnership will enable the conservation of 18 million square kilometers (7 million square miles) of ecologically significant seas. The resulting protections will help to replenish fisheries, increase the resilience of marine species and ecosystems to climate change, and help coastal communities eat, thrive and adapt for generations to come.



Socially responsible seafood

Conservation International works at the nexus of human well-being and environmental sustainability. With environmental, human rights and industry leaders, we are transitioning the Monterey Framework for Socially Responsible Seafood into practice in critical industrial and small-scale fisheries supply chains — ensuring social safeguards to protect fishers' civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. We target environmental and human-rights hotspots where this crisis is concentrated, bringing research and technical capacity to strategic partners, globally.



In the field

Conservation International is hard at work

© Conservation International/photo by Tim Noviello
Iloilo Province, Philippines
The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable nations in the world to the effects of climate breakdown. Tropical storms are happening more frequently and with greater intensity, leading to devastating storm surges along the country’s coasts. Conservation International is working to minimize the damage of future storms through “green-gray” projects that mix traditional engineering infrastructure (such as sea walls) with natural features (such as mangrove forests).
© Paul Hilton for Conservation International
Atauro, Timor-Leste
The Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste is home to spectacular coral reefs and marine life, drawing dive tourists from around the world. Conservation International supported an initiative to combine 12 community-run marine protected areas — areas of the ocean where human activity is restricted, preventing overfishing and keeping the waters healthy — into one large network on the Timorese island of Atauro. The result: Communities building their livelihoods through conservation.
© Conservation International photo by Marco Quesada
Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica
Conservation International is working in the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica, to protect and restore the diverse mangrove ecosystem of the Central American country’s most productive estuary. The Gulf’s mangrove forests provide vital habitat for fisheries and income for more than 6,000 fishers, and they have been the main source of food for nearby communities for more than a century. The mangrove forests are critical to maintaining water quality and controlling coastal erosion.
© CI/Sterling Zumbrunn
In 2019, Conservation International announced the Ecuador Azul fund, a US$ 6 million endowment fund supporting the conservation, management and long-term sustainability of Ecuador’s marine protected areas (MPAs). Ecuador Azul will initially fund five MPAs spanning nearly 2,000 square kilometers (about 772 square miles) of diverse marine and coastal ecosystems, containing an enormous range of wildlife, from the world’s largest cluster of manta rays to one of the most extensive mangrove areas along the Pacific coast.



Related conservation news from the field

2020 in review: For world’s oceans, a year of distress, discovery

Dec 10, 2020, 11:56 AM by Kiley Price
This month, Conservation News is revisiting some of the most interesting and significant stories and issues we covered in 2020.

Nature saw its ups and downs in 2020, and Conservation News was there for it all. This month, we are revisiting some of the most interesting and significant stories and issues we covered in the past year. 

To read headlines about the ocean is to be subjected to a litany of bad news, with research showing that large swaths of the ocean are becoming increasingly hot, lifeless and acidic as climate change accelerates. Avoiding the worst climate impacts, scientists say, means protecting the ocean — and the people who depend on it — on a massive scale. 

From groundbreaking research into mysterious deep-water coral reefs, to helping fishers to (sustainably) weather a pandemic, Conservation International was at the leading edge of marine science and policy in 2020. Here are some of our most-read stories of the year. 

Combing through historical data and more than half a million records of corals worldwide, researchers identified more than 116 coral reefs flourishing throughout the high seas — the waters that lie beyond maritime borders. Conservation News spoke to the study’s lead author about why this discovery offers a ray of hope for the world’s dying reefs.

Read more here

A new study found that the pandemic is crippling small-scale fisheries — the coastal and non-industrial fishing enterprises that make up more than 90 percent of the global fishing industry. Conservation International’s Elena Finkbeiner, a co-author on the study, outlined the road to recovery. 

Read more here.

Conservation International’s diving safety officer, Edgardo Ochoa, visits some of the planet’s most spectacular reefs. He never knows quite what corals or fish he’ll encounter. But there is one thing he has come to expect on every dive: plastic. To prevent an even more plastic-filled future for our oceans, he offers five tips to help you save our seas.

Read more here.

In January, a group of researchers found that walking sharks are collectively the “youngest” — as in, the most recently evolved — sharks to ever walk (or swim) the planet. We spoke to Mark Erdmann, a Conservation International shark expert and co-author on the study, about how his team uncovered the evolutionary origin of this unique shark species — and why they could help us adapt to climate change. 

Grim reports and unsettling headlines paint a bleak future for Earth’s coral reefs, which are projected to be wiped out by the end of the century due to climate change and pollution. But a recent study found that this future can be prevented — and outlined the relatively small steps humanity can take to ensure coral reefs’ long-term protection and productivity. 

Read more here.


Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: A scuba diver in Fiji (© Conservation International/Mark Erdmann)

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