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The Rise of Ocean Philanthropy

Guardians of the oceans

Over the past decade, public and private funding for ocean preservation has increased exponentially. The David and Lucille Packard Foundation’s 2017 report on ocean funding stated: “During 2015, roughly US$800 million in grant funding was directed toward ocean conservation. Half of those funds originated from foundations, primarily in the United States and half those funds came in the form of official development assistance grants from bilateral and multilateral aid agencies.”

The foundation’s research did not include individual contributions and contributions from foundations outside the United States, but still showed that philanthropic contributions directed towards ocean funding grew between 2010 and 2015, rising from US$252 million to US$399 million.

Private funders like Gordon and Betty Moore, the Packard foundation, the Walton family, Marisla, Helmsley Charitable Trust, Oak Foundation and the Waitt foundation have ploughed hundreds of millions of dollars into ocean philanthropy. Supporting them are public funders such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Blue Moon Fund and the Global Environmental Facility. In 2016 the combined contribution of these private funders totalled US$1 billion which went towards supporting ocean science, conservation and management, according to Philanthropy News Digest.

Ocean philanthropy is increasingly becoming more strategic, as money is directed to specific target areas. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a primary focus, as is improving seafood management and supply through seafood markets. Other preferred areas of funding included science, protected areas, coastal issues, communications and education, policy, and capacity building. Lesser investments include illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, aquacultures, livelihoods, pollution and marine debris, as well as ocean acidification.

Although most of this funding is coming from United States-based donors, who contributed nearly US$500 million between 2010 and 2014, smaller contributions are flowing in from other global countries. Interestingly the biggest contribution from an individual country, after the United States, is Mexico. The country contributed US$70 million, ahead of Europe which came in at US$66 million.

Collaboration and innovation

Although global funding is greatly skewed, world leaders have begun talking about ways to protect the world’s oceans. Global collaboration was highlighted during discussions about ocean protection at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) 2019 annual Davos meeting, where critical issues around ocean survival were identified. Key threats included climate change and warming oceans, acidification, overfishing, degradation of ocean ecosystems and environments, and plastic pollution.

In order to tackle these issues, calls were made for greater country and industry collaboration. The WEF responded by launching the WEF Ocean Action Agenda project, which offers a platform for key industries to work together with government, civil society, and the scientific community. According to the WEF: “This unprecedented multi-stakeholder coalition seeks to improve ocean management by exploring cross-cutting opportunities and leveraging new technologies to scale promising solutions.”

This collaborative approach will enable the project to work across all aspects of ocean preservation, and it seeks to hold all parties accountable for their role in ocean degradation.

The WEF is also focused on using technology to advance this agenda. Potential exists, says the WEF, to collect data via sensors carried by ships, ocean drones, satellites and even fishing nets and surfboards. But this data had to be properly utilised. The hope is that all stakeholders will share data and collaborate to combat issues around illegal fishing, and other ocean crimes.

Meridian Adventure Race calls for passionate advocates to join the movement against ocean plastic.

Meridian Adventure, a global eco-tourism company, is funded by Meridian Capital Limited, is passionate about empowering people to appreciate the beauty of the ocean and to protect and preserve it for future generations. Its strapline is “One Ocean. One Planet. One Community.” and it asks people to “Join the movement”.

Their latest initiative, Meridian Adventure Race, is called Epic Blue, which is an epic challenge for those with adventurous spirit, that is set against the backdrop of some of the most extraordinary destinations in the world.”

Pushing the limits of human endurance, Meridian Adventure Race creates opportunities where passionate athletes can explore the boundaries of human movement and test their personal limits and in so doing show their commitment to the environment.

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  • April 2019