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

Raja Ampat launches Indonesia’s first shark sanctuary

Nov 25, 2020, 15:19 PM by User Not Found
Earlier this week, the regency government of West Papua’s Raja Ampat archipelago took the bold step of declaring its entire 46,000 square-kilometer (almost 18,000 square-mile) marine domain a shark sanctuary — Indonesia’s first.

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

Earlier this week, the regency government of West Papua’s Raja Ampat archipelago took the bold step of declaring its entire 46,000 square-kilometer (almost 18,000 square-mile) marine domain a shark sanctuary — Indonesia’s first. One of only a handful of such sanctuaries in existence globally, this latest news is further indication that the tide is turning for shark conservation.

With the EU adopting a total ban on shark finning back in November, and sale of fins now banned in several U.S. states, the global push for shark protection continues to gather momentum. I hope that Raja Ampat’s strong leadership will encourage others to follow suit. Indonesia remains the world’s largest supplier of shark fin products, with the trade primarily driven by China’s rapacious appetite for shark fin soup.

Located within the Bird’s Head Seascape, Raja Ampat’s reefs are some of the richest in the world. As apex predators, sharks are essential to the health of these reefs. But intense fishing of sharks perpetrated by outsiders has led to the depletion of Raja Ampat’s shark numbers over the past two decades.

With the creation of the Bird’s Head Seascape network of marine protected areas, and now a total ban on shark capture and sale, Raja’s sharks may again rule the reefs. Raja Ampat is emerging as a “bucket list” destination for recreational divers from around the world; healthier shark populations will only add to this appeal in the future.

Clear and focused action by a strong conservation community provided the catalyst for change in Raja Ampat. A coalition of concerned parties led by Misool Eco Resort and Shark Savers — with support from WildAid, Misool Baseftin Foundation and the Coral Reef Alliance — urged the Raja Ampat government to take measures. Recognising the value of their burgeoning tourism industry, the regency government sought the technical support of Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy to develop the legislation.

In the words of Conservation International-Indonesia Director Ketut Sarjana Putra, “This type of regional policy is a great example of local leaders building Indonesia’s blue economy through investing in responsible marine tourism — recognizing the links between a healthy marine ecosystem and healthy sustainable society. Hopefully this will prompt other tourism-dependent regions to develop similar actions throughout the Indonesian archipelago.”

We now know that heavy shark fishing cannot be sustained. Sharks reproduce slowly, and populations quickly devastated by targeted fishing can take decades to recover. Recent estimates suggest that up to 73 million sharks are killed annually — mostly for their fins, and often under extremely cruel circumstances.

We also have seen that sharks can be extremely valuable alive if left to thrive in areas attractive to tourists. A recent Maldives study showed the value of a single shark over its lifetime to be as much as US$ 30,000 in terms of economic return to the local tourism industry. In comparison, a shark killed for fins in Papua may fetch only a few dollars. And so Raja Ampat’s legislation of full shark protection makes sense economically, as well as scientifically.

The new regulation will also boost protection to all marine mammals, ornamental fish species and manta rays, making Raja Ampat’s marine life now the most protected in all of Indonesia.

Perhaps most importantly, Papuans have regained control of their natural resources and their traditional role as stewards of the sea. This blog post from last year demonstrated the strong affinity our Papuan colleagues have with the ocean. Today, the people of Raja Ampat have taken a bold leap forward, and can proudly consider themselves world leaders in marine conservation.

Matthew Fox is the former Conservation International-Indonesia seascapes management advisor.


Load more comments




Our Priorities