Sustainable Ocean Solutions

If climate change solutions have been hampered by structure and performance that have not resulted in return on massive funding commitments to climate change and ocean protection to an extent that has demonstrated success and progress on the ground and in the water, what can we do to change the strategy, to eliminate the middlemen, and to put the available funds into the hands, not of bureaucrats and planners, but of those who will succeed by doing? My email box is inundated with reports and studies and virtual round tables and webinars, and I follow the NGOs and environmental organizations with avid interest, hoping I will find another way, an organization or model that will allow for funds to by-pass the interval between lofty discussion and practical matters. I think I may have found it.

Image Credit: Toby Matthews / Ocean Image Bank

In 2014, an organization was founded in San Francisco by Daniela Fernandez, the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) with the mission “to activate young people, develop and implement innovative solutions, and mobilize an ocean workforce to restore the health of the ocean in our lifetime.” Let me emphasize four parts of that equation: young people, innovative solutions, workforce, and in our lifetime. To meet those criteria was from the start a provocative goal. The ocean constituency is for the most part older, professional, and committed to established ways. Innovation by definition was an attack on convention, and solutions set a more defined level of expectation for outcome. Workforce meant people on the ground, on the water, where the hard, dirty work of conservation has to be practiced, at the edge where land meets sea in real time, real cause, real effect, real risk, real solution. And, finally, in our lifetime demands that work can no longer be measured by any other standard than the palpable urgency of real time, now.

This month, SOA announced results, provided facts and figures in a report entitled “222 Solutions to Heal, Restore, and Sustain Our Ocean”. The range of accomplishment defines the breadth of the problem. Here are their categories and statistics:

  • Ocean Solution Accelerator providing funding, mentorship to scale ocean ventures and amplify their impact: 45 ocean companies in 29 countries, $950,000 invested to leverage $228 million in new projects within the Blue Economy.
  • Ocean Leadership Program to support 6000 participants with resources and networks needed to build ocean-healing solutions and leadership potential: 177 micro-grant projects, $416,000 to support 600 jobs created.
  • Blue Carbon: CO2 reduced, avoided, or sequestered: 15 solutions with 15,540 metric tons…
  • Pollution Reduction and the Circular Economy: 62 solutions, with 1,775 metric tons of solid waste removed, upcycled, or avoided.
  • Ecosystem Preservation Preservation and Restoration: 34 solutions, 89,128 square meters of blue carbon ecosystems protected or restored.
  • Ocean Data, Literacy, and Research: 81 solutions that have monitored 150,000 kilometers of coastline for climate change adaptation, saved 67,000 whale from marine collisions, produce 150 ocean literacy reports, 260 events, with 30,000 youth participants.
  • Blue Foods: 30 solutions lined to sustainable protein, fisheries, and aquaculture.

I urge you to visit the Sustainable Ocean Alliance at, read the full report in complete detail at, and join in to support their effort.

The areas of engagement have been long identified and are embedded in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other high level plans and recommendations. And good work is being done in these areas by others. But what is key here is the scale and connection that have been established as new criteria for investment and commitment. Some of these first outcomes may seem small, but the system is now in place, valued, and ready to scale to even greater numbers and as even greater solution in ocean places all around the world. Every young person involved, every mentor, every fisher or coastal inhabitant, every innovator, every Citizen of the Ocean with a determined commitment can now see results of individual and collective labor, of bright ideas, or opportunities to follow, of success that can be realized.

What will it take? Just this. Imagination, commitment, personal engagement, hard work, measurable results, social benefit, communal spirit, realization of change through individual and collective endeavor. Thank you, Daniela Fernandez, your colleagues at the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, and all those you have enabled to join, solve, heal, restore, and sustain the global ocean. Don’t stop now. This is where real hope lies.

PETER NEILL is founder and director of the World Ocean Observatory, a web-based place of exchange for information and educational services about the health of the world ocean. He is also host of World Ocean Radio, upon which this blog is inspired. World Ocean Radio celebrates 14 years this year, with more than 635 episodes produced to date.



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