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

Coral-saving crabs, biodegradable plastic surge, iceberg collision: 3 stories you may have missed

Dec 18, 2020, 12:58 PM by Adam Sedgley
In case you missed it: A voracious crustacean helps restore seaweed-choked coral, a surge in biodegradable plastic threatens to further pollute oceans and rivers, and a massive ice melt endangers one of the world’s richest ecosystems.

Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. More crabs!: Scientists discover a way to help dying coral reefs

A voracious crustacean helps restore seaweed-choked coral, research shows.

The story: A new study in the Florida Keys found that boosting the number of native Caribbean king crabs on coral reefs could save them from being smothered by seaweed. The crabs have an impressive appetite for algae and, over the course of a year, munched more than half the seaweed covering the test reefs, reported Ailsa Chang and Ari Shapiro for NPR. Warmer seas create abundant seaweed that can block sunlight from coral reefs and produce harmful chemicals that shut down their reproduction. The reefs with more crabs saw four times as many juvenile corals and the return of fish populations. Within its native range, the large herbivorous crab could become an important ally in coral reef restoration, scientists say.

The big picture: Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life. Yet around 20 percent of the world’s coral is already gone, and most of the rest is threatened by climate change, overfishing and pollution. While saving coral reefs will require broad efforts, the Caribbean king crab provides a ray of hope. “The results really were transformative,” Mark Butler, one of the study’s authors, told NPR. “I can honestly say in the 40 or so years that I've been working in coastal, tropical marine environments that this is really one of the most astounding results that we have got.”

Read more here.

2. China biodegradable plastics 'failing to solve pollution crisis'

A surge in biodegradable plastic could further pollute oceans and rivers.

The story: A demand for biodegradable plastic in China could outpace the country’s ability to process and degrade it, Joel Gunter wrote for the BBC. Earlier this year, China — the world’s largest producer of plastic — banned some types of non-degradable single-use plastic. In the wake of this legislation, 36 companies have planned or built new biodegradable plastic projects, adding production capacity of more than 4.4 million metric tons, a sevenfold increase since 2019, according to a new report. However, most biodegradable plastic requires high heat in industrial treatment to decompose, and China may not have enough facilities to process it.

The big picture: Nearly 8 million metric tons of plastic and waste are dumped into the ocean every year, along with massive amounts of pollution from other sources such as oil and gas. Based on current trends, plastic is expected to triple within the next 20 years, adding up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of plastic waste along every meter of the world’s coastlines. While recycling is crucial, reducing plastic is the most effective way to prevent new plastic from entering the ocean, Edgardo Ochoa, Conservation International’s marine and diving safety officer, wrote earlier this year.

Read more here.

3. Scientists plan mission to biggest iceberg as it drifts towards island

A massive melt could impact species in one of the world’s richest ecosystems.

The story: The world’s largest iceberg — known as A-68A — is drifting perilously close to the island of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean, where it could wreak havoc on sensitive wildlife and marine species, Ian Sample reported for The Guardian. A team of researchers led by the British Antarctic Survey will embark on an expedition next month to study the impact of the iceberg, which is larger than Luxembourg. If it gets stuck on the continental shelf and releases billions of metric tons of freshwater into the ocean, it could destroy feeding grounds for large colonies of penguins, seals and whales. A-68A could also scrape across the sea floor, harming mollusks, crustaceans, sponges and other marine life in its path.

The big picture: “The iceberg is going to cause devastation to the sea floor by scouring the seabed communities of sponges, brittle stars, worms and sea-urchins, so decreasing biodiversity,” said Geraint Tarling, an ecologist at the British Antarctic Survey. “These communities help store large amounts of carbon in their body tissue and surrounding sediment. Destruction by the iceberg will release this stored carbon back into the water and, potentially, the atmosphere, which would be a further negative impact.”

Read more here.

Vanessa Bauza is Conservation International's Editorial Director. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: An iceberg near Antartica (© Richard Sidey/GALAXIID)

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