Posted: 17 November 2021

Opportunities in ocean conservation

Work to restore and protect nature is significantly underfunded. Estimates suggest that the ‘Biodiversity Financing Gap’, the global shortfall across land and sea, is between $598–824 billion per year.

In 2019, less than $1 billion of philanthropic funding went to marine conservation activities. More needs to be invested to secure the health of our ocean.

The good news is that philanthropic funding for ocean conservation is increasing. In fact, it has doubled over the past decade. A recent report by Our Shared Seas explores marine conservation funding patterns. The report, A Decade of Ocean Funding: Landscape Trends 2010–2020, analyses data from more than 30,000 grants, and creates the most comprehensive picture of global marine funding to date. It ranks Arcadia amongst the top philanthropic funders supporting ocean causes and in the top 10 supporting protected areas and habitat protection.

But we know we can go further. Our goal is to protect natural systems so that they can be resilient and healthy. This is key to mitigating the effects of human-modified landscapes, global heating and exploitation. We have reviewed our marine grant-making to look for new opportunities. We will remain focused on biodiversity conservation, but explore opportunities to:

  • Promote large and effectively managed marine protected areas (we recently joined the ‘Protecting our Planet Challenge’);
  • rewild and restore territorial seas and coastlines;
  • enhance ocean governance and hold governments accountable;
  • minimize, and ideally eliminate, harm that destructive fishing methods cause; and
  • support youth in marine leadership positions.

We know that it’s not only what we give, but how. We make multi-year grants, offer unrestricted funding and award repeat grants. We do this to strengthen outstanding organizations and continue excellent work. But we also recognize that we, and the philanthropic sector, must broaden to include a wider range of voices, perspectives, skill sets and knowledge. In our future giving, we will focus on how can do this better, such as ensuring our funds reach smaller organizations, including those run by and for Indigenous peoples and local communities.

Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus) in Alcranes reef. © Oceana/ Benjamín Magaña-Rodríguez.

Below are some examples of how our current grantees are working to address emergent priorities for marine conservation.

Promoting large, effectively managed marine protected areas

Marine protected areas conserve critical places and reduce or remove pressures from extractive industries, giving habitats the chance to thrive. The total area under marine protection is considerably less than global goals for securing marine biodiversity, and many protected areas are poorly managed or enforced. Our core funding to Fauna & Flora International (FFI) allows it to work with local partners like Fundação Príncipe in São Tomé e Príncipe, an archipelago located off the west coast of Africa. A marine biodiversity hotspot, the area provides breeding grounds for hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles. FFI and Fundação Príncipes’ work has influenced fisheries legislation, reinforcing the importance of marine protection for fisheries management.

Rewilding seas and coastlines

The Endangered Landscapes Programme supports Rewilding Europe’s work to restore the Danube Delta, one of the largest delta systems in Europe. Rivers are vital corridors between inland habitats and the sea, facilitating the movement of nutrients and species. Working with local partners (including Rewilding Danube Delta in Romania, Rewilding Ukraine, Verde e Moldova and WWF-Romania) the project aims to improve the functioning of wetland ecosystems and to promote the return of iconic species like the Dalmatian pelican.

Enhancing ocean governance

TRAFFIC’s assessment of trade in dried seahorses from Africa to Asia highlighted that there is scarcely any monitoring of the international trade of these animals, or the associated impact on their local populations. The vast majority of trade, mainly for use in traditional Chinese medicine, appears to be illegal. If this continues, seahorse populations will plummet and some species may disappear entirely. TRAFFIC is pushing for increased regulation and closer scrutiny of wildlife trade routes.

Eliminating destructive fishing methods

Oceana is campaigning for the Peruvian Government to protect the Nasca Dorsal National Reserve, after a last minute decision to allow deep-sea cod fishing in the area. This industry threatens this rare and slow-growing species living on the underwater mountains and seafloor, which are the main conservation objects of the reserve.

Empowering ocean leaders

Leadership is paramount to achieving cooperation and meaningful, long-term results. Good leadership requires resources, training and support, especially for young leaders. The Conservation Leadership Programme supports early-career conservationists and researchers to protect globally threatened species, like the endangered sawfish in Indonesia.

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