For surfers riding waves from Bali to Baja, the health of the ocean is deteriorating right beneath their boards due to unchecked coastal development, overfishing and climate change.
Surfing generates US$50 billion a year and is enjoyed by more than 35 million people across the globe; people who are passionate about keeping the ocean — and their favorite surf spots — healthy.
Conservation International and the Save The Waves Coalition joined forces to create the Surf Conservation Partnership to mobilize surfing communities on a global scale and protect areas with outstanding waves and biologically diverse marine and coastal ecosystems. The goal: to sustainably manage millions of hectares of coral reefs, coastal forests and other critical habitats in areas that otherwise would not be conserved.
THE APPROACH IS SIMPLE
We work with local communities and governments to create “surf protected areas,” which protect ecosystems by removing threats of overfishing, deforestation, plastic pollution and unsustainable development — helping nature and people to thrive.
By 2025, the Surf Conservation Partnership will:
- Protect more than 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of coral reef, mangrove, coastline and coastal forest — an area collectively 100 miles long by 40 miles wide. This will conserve more than 300 high-quality surf breaks and benefit tens of thousands of local people around the world.
- Improve the lives of tens of thousands of people through sustainable development.
- Help youth (with a focus on girls and young women) build critical life skills and actively lead conservation and sustainable economic enterprises.
- Implement sustainable tourism programs that encourage community-centered, environmentally responsible surf and nature tourism.
- Demonstrate to decision-makers the massive economic contribution that surfing makes to local economies and the critical role it can play in conservation.
Support the Surf Conservation Partnership
Creating the world’s first surf protected area network
Across the world, surfing is critical to local economies and has vast potential to support conservation. Economists estimate, each break with good waves generates up to US$18 million annually for local economies, creating hundreds of jobs and supporting
thousands of people.
But popular surf locations are also plagued by plastic pollution, unchecked development, overuse of natural resources and impacts from climate change. The creation of surf protected areas helps to safeguard these important ecosystems and local economies through regulations and actions that stop these threats.
Regulations to protect these areas are being developed by local people and governments including: no-fishing areas, prohibitions on destructive fishing gear, limitations on fishing by outside people unless they have permission, restrictions on habitat alteration including harvesting of sand and coral and requirements for sustainable coastal development.
Surf protected areas have massive advantages for expanding conservation
The World Surf League (WSL)
The Surf Conservation Partnership has been working with the WSL in support of the We Are One Ocean campaign. The WSL launched the We Are One Ocean campaign in early 2021 with the goal of bringing people together to care about the issue of ocean conservation and preserve the future of surfing for generations of surfers to come. Since launch, the campaign has brought together people from over 150 countries and more than 90 organizations such as Conservation International and Save the Waves, as well as garnering more than 400 million cumulative reach. The campaign called on world leaders to adopt a target at the 2021 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to protect and conserve at least 30 percent of the global ocean, including international waters, by 2030. The WSL urged world leaders to be driven by science, and led by an inclusive process that embraces all stakeholder communities and considers the ocean’s value to the peoples of every nation.
Key to this partnership is our collaboration with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) and the Anderson School of Management. Based in one of the world’s epicenters of surfing in Southern California, this world-renowned university is lending its academic expertise and business acumen to strengthen our surf protected area initiatives.
For everyone who loves the ocean, the surf protected area approach has several advantages for expanding marine conservation:
- Demand: Surfing communities and governments are calling for this approach because it protects waves that they value, conserves resources that they depend on and offers opportunities for sustainable tourism.
- Speed: Surfing communities are deeply connected to the ocean, know that it is threatened and are motivated to conserve it — all of which makes the process of establishing surf protected areas move quickly.
- Sustainability: Healthy coastlines and quality surfing waves have immense social and economic value. The Surfonomics methodology has shown that surfing generates millions of dollars for local economies and that visiting surfers are willing to pay for long-term conservation of surfing waves and nature. This massive economic value motivates communities and decision-makers to protect their coastal resources and waves in the long-term.
Scott Atkinson, Director, The Surf Conservation Partnership, Conservation International’s Center for Oceans. For more information, contact us.
Across the globe, more than 85 percent of the world's best surfing waves are located in areas that are critically important for marine and coastal conservation. This creates near limitless potential for surf protected areas that combine the legal protection of marine ecosystems and sustainable community development.
Surf Conservation Partnership founders
Conservation International and the Save The Waves Coalition greatly appreciate the visionary people who are helping to launch the Surf Conservation Partnership. These are our partnership founders, who are generously offering their advice, engaging their friends and colleagues in the initiative, and providing critical funding and support.
Scott K. Atkinson and Ashley Kleckner
Kristina Brittenham and Jesse Sisgold
Erin Culley and Richard Carlson
Langley Eide and Tom McDonald
David Joshua Levy
Shannon and Bryce Skaff
John Swift and the Mycorrhizal Fund