Today, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an international environmental non-profit organization, announced at TED in Vancouver, Canada a plan to drastically scale-up ocean conservation around the world. By delivering Blue Bonds for Ocean Conservation in as many as 20 countries over the next five years, TNC will help ensure the new protection of up to 1.5 million square miles (4 million km2) of the world’s most biodiversity-critical ocean habitats – a 15 percent increase in the amount of protected ocean that currently exists. This plan, which was selected from more than 1,500 The Audacious Project applicants, has already secured more than $23 million in funding from various donors out of the $40 million TNC ultimately requires to unlock $1.6 billion toward marine conservation.
Why is this important? Scientists estimate that with business as usual, 90 percent of coral reefs will be gone within our lifetimes. Eighty percent of global fisheries are already considered fully exploited or overexploited. Rising seas and stronger storms threaten 40 percent of the world’s population. Mangrove forests sequester four times more carbon than rainforests, yet they are disappearing at a pace three to five times faster. These ecosystems provide crucial resources and protection to coastal communities and their economies.
But all is not lost. Ocean protection, when done well, works. Cabo Pulmo in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula established a marine protected area, and 10 years later, it has reversed the toll of decades of overfishing and increased fish stocks by more than 400 percent. But examples like this are rare because too often island and coastal nations are deep in debt and can’t afford to pay for conservation to make their environment and economies more resilient.
“There’s still time to reverse decades of damage to the world’s oceans before we hit the point of no return,” said Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy. “It’s going to take something audacious to tackle marine protection at this scale, which means thinking beyond more traditional approaches to ocean conservation.”