How data transparency can help protect our oceans

Patti Harris, CEO, Bloomberg Philanthropies

How data transparency can help protect our oceans
Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

Six years ago, I attended a meeting in New York City, hosted by then-United States Secretary of State John Kerry. Its goal was to organize a global summit dedicated to saving our ocean from the devastating effects of over-fishing, pollution, and climate change.  That meeting led to the first Our Ocean conference, which took place a few months later in Washington, D.C.

This week, I traveled to Oslo to attend the 6th annual convening of Our Ocean, and after spending time with so many like-minded partners and leaders from across sectors and around the world, I’m more optimistic than ever about what’s possible for the global movement to protect the ocean.

At Bloomberg Philanthropies, we use our founder, Mike Bloomberg’s, experience as a business leader and 12-year mayor of New York City to inform our mission – which is to ensure better and longer lives for the greatest number of people. And one of the most valuable lessons that he learned was that strong partnerships and collaboration among the public, private, and philanthropic sectors are essential to getting things done. That idea is the driving force behind so much of our work at our foundation today.

And it’s especially true of how we’re tackling climate change. For instance, we’re building coalitions of businesses and governments to close coal plants globally, while partnering with cities and local leaders around the world – particularly mayors – to reduce emissions and create a more sustainable future.

That same type of all-hands-on-deck approach is what’s required right now if we’re going to respond to a crisis as urgent as protecting the ocean. The ocean is our most important natural resource, and it is under attack – from overfishing, which is threatening the food source of one billion people, and from climate change, which is decimating coral reefs and destroying marine biodiversity.

Yet despite covering 71% of the world, the ocean receives less than 1% of all philanthropic funding. That makes absolutely no sense!  But thanks to the worldwide effort on display at Our Ocean, we’re beginning to change that. And at Bloomberg Philanthropies, we’re happy to be doing our part.

Through our Vibrant Oceans Initiative, we’ve committed more than $150 million on a multi-pronged strategy to protect reefs and fisheries.  Working hand in hand with an incredible network of governments, nonprofits, scientists, and businesses, we’re advocating for policy changes in 10 countries, investing in data-sharing platforms like Global Fishing Watch, supporting local leaders and small-scale fisheries, and building global partnerships to share best practices and increase transparency.

But making a commitment and coming up with a plan is just the start. You need to able to measure and track progress in order to achieve real success.  That’s why we rely on data across all of our work – it’s in the Bloomberg DNA.  Mike has a saying: “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” and we live by that motto in everything we do.

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