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

A history of discovery in the Bird’s Head Seascape

Dec 1, 2020, 15:32 PM by Kiley Price
A history of discovery in the Bird’s Head Seascape

Editor’s note: This article is more than five years old. For more up-to-date conservation news, visit our homepage.

Collaboration between the world’s leading scientists is crucial in order to combine valuable data and convince decision-makers to take action and protect our planet. Last week, a team made up from staff from Conservation International, the New England Aquarium (NEAq), National Geographic, the Waitt Institute and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute set out to discover and explore seamounts — largely-unstudied ecosystems — in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago. Here is the most recent update from the water from Mark Erdmann — Conservation International-Indonesia’s senior marine advisor — brought to you directly from the NEAq blog.

As you’ve now read for the past week on this expedition blog, our team is currently operating in the mega-diverse Raja Ampat Archipelago of West Papua, Indonesia. But where exactly, you might ask, is this fabled land, and why are we here? As the person responsible for Conservation International’s extensive conservation program in Raja Ampat and the broader Bird’s Head Seascape in which it sits, I’ve been asked by Greg Stone and Alan Dynner to write a short entry to put the expedition in its (bio)geographic context.

Raja Ampat means “the four kings” in Indonesian, in reference to the four large islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo, which are situated just off the northwest tip of the island of New Guinea. Stretching over a 50,000 square kilometer (19,300 square mile) area dotted with an additional 607 smaller satellite islands, the Raja Ampat Archipelago has a rich history of early European natural history exploration. Three major French expedition ships (the L’Uranie, La Coquille, and L’Astrolabe) visited the region between 1818 and 1826; amongst the now well-known and widespread reef fish species they discovered and described are the blacktip reef shark, the bluefin and bigeye trevallies, the semicircular angelfish, and the sergeant major damselfish.

In the mid 1800’s, natural history luminaries including Alfred Russel Wallace and the Dutch ichthyologist Pieter Bleeker focused their attentions on this region, and the early 1900’s saw a third intense phase of research focused on this area when the Dutchmen Weber and de Beaufort published extensively on the coral reef fishes of the region.

And then things went quiet in Raja Ampat. Until the late 1990’s, when renowned Australian ichthyologist Gerry Allen visited the area under the invitation of the indefatigable Max Ammer, another Dutchman who had pioneered diving in the area and set up a small diving eco-resort in Raja Ampat. Gerry actually came to survey freshwater rainbow fishes in the area, but Max relentlessly pestered him to do some diving and give his professional opinion on the coral reefs that had attracted Max to settle in this area.

It only took Gerry five minutes of diving on these reefs and he knew Raja Ampat was globally unique; he immediately convinced his colleagues at Conservation International to fund a formal rapid assessment (RAP) of the coral reef biodiversity of the area (completed in 2001), and the rest, as they say, is history. The RAP team recorded the highest marine biodiversity ever, with single dives revealing up to 274 species of reef fish and over 250 species of reef-building corals — that’s more than 4 times the number of coral species found in the entire Caribbean Sea. Subsequent surveys funded by both Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) only bolstered the numbers: current tallies include 553 species of reef building coral and 1418 species of coral reef fish (we’ve actually picked up 5 new fish records in the last 4 days of diving). Many of the species in these lists are in fact new to science and considered endemic, or unique to the area — in the past 3 weeks we’ve collected 3 definite new coral reef fish species, and one of the fishes (a coral goby) collected on this expedition may well also prove to be new once we get the specimens back to land and are able to investigate them thoroughly.

The spectacular diversity of this area, combined with its low human population density (there are only about 39,000 people living in Raja Ampat) and generally healthy marine ecosystems, led Conservation International, TNC and several local partner organizations including the Papua Sea Turtle Foundation and the State University of Papua to invest in a large scale marine conservation program in the region beginning in 2004. Over the past seven years, this program has expanded to envelope the entire “Bird’s Head Seascape” region of West Papua, bringing in additional partners such as WWF-Indonesia and extending its reach into Cendrawasih Bay in the east and the Kaimana region to the south and now covering 183,000 square kilometers of the most biodiverse seas on Earth.

Today, this program works closely with both the West Papuan provincial government and the Indonesian national government to help manage a network of 10 marine protected areas (MPAs) that in total cover nearly 3.6 million hectares (almost 9 million acres) of the Bird’s Head Seascape. Raja Ampat sits as the “crown jewel” of the seascape, with seven of the MPAs located in Raja Ampat. So far, we’ve visited four of these marine parks during the current expedition.

Over the coming week, the team will continue to focus on the multiple objectives that comprise this trip, ranging from exploring uncharted seamounts to documenting reef health and biodiversity. Given what I know of Raja Ampat, I’m sure there’s still a host of surprises awaiting us!

Read other blogs from the boat on the NEAq Global Explorers blog.

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