Advancing Ocean Justice

Ocean Conservancy’s Commitment to Ocean Justice

Our Global Commitment

At Ocean Conservancy, our advocacy for the global ocean is predicated on our commitment to ocean justice—which we define as the fair and equitable distribution of both the benefits of the ocean’s bounty and the burdens of its complex care.

Persistent global inequalities—which manifest as unequal ocean access, benefits and burdens—are an inherent threat to the well-being of the ocean. Such inequalities accelerate ocean harm, fragment people’s relationships to the ocean, limit innovation in solving ocean problems and obstruct our ability to effectively advocate for the most impactful ocean solutions.

Because of the myriad ways in which global inequalities impact the ocean, our work as an ocean advocacy organization must be thoughtful, agile, intentional and always oriented toward our vision of a healthier ocean, protected by a more just world.

We are profoundly committed to working toward a future of greater global equity in which all communities have the power and resources to equitably care for, steward and benefit from the ocean.

The Problem

One of our greatest global challenges is addressing the mismanagement of ocean resources, which causes too much to go into the ocean and too much to come out of it. Plastics, hazardous waste and other contaminants continue to flow into the ocean. Overfishing has threatened biodiversity and sustainable food sources and disturbed entire ecosystems.

We all lose when we abuse the ocean, but ocean and coastal communities occupied by globally marginalized people—such as Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Descendants—are hit particularly hard. Such communities bear the greatest brunt of ocean mismanagement, despite having done the least to cause these global ocean problems.

These communities’ livelihoods, histories and cultures depend on the ocean—which means that rapid pollution and excessive extraction threaten not only their food and economic resources but their very sense of self. Unfortunately, although these communities are on the frontlines of ocean-based harms, they are sidelined in international discussions of ocean management because of their racial, cultural or ethnic identities. So, despite the harm they suffer, marginalized communities are granted very little power to stop it and very few platforms from which to speak about it.

The erasure of these communities’ voices reflects an imbalance of power in decision-making about ocean and climate issues on a global scale, which threatens to derail our grandest plans for a shared ocean future.

The Solution

As we rise to the climate crisis and build more locally led, grassroots power for the ocean, Ocean Conservancy is incorporating an ocean justice lens across all our existing conservation initiatives. This commitment is essential to advance our mission.

With the help of our Ocean Justice team, Ocean Conservancy will be taking a hard look at everything we do to advance ocean conservation—to decarbonize shipping and ports, expand offshore wind and other clean energy, push for good ocean climate policy and study the climate-plastics nexus—and will identify places and practices that create barriers to this essential work. We will incorporate a justice and equity lens at the outset of every ocean conservation initiative; we will share our contacts and resources to help support local efforts and we will hold ourselves accountable to the values we’ve shared above in our Global Commitment.

We are also dedicating ourselves to partnering with organizations and communities for greater impact. We understand those closest to the issues have a better understanding of how to advance solutions and that our role is that of amplification, not edification.

Learn more about our partnerships:

  • Ocean climate policy: We’re working to decarbonize shipping and support clean ports, reduce single-use plastic use and encourage offshore wind and other renewable energy.
  • Ocean Justice Microcourse: We have created a course in partnership with Unity College to educate participants on the budding field of ocean justice and its connection to climate change, race, indigeneity, gender, sexuality and more. After completing the course, participants will earn an ocean justice badge certification.
  • Ocean Justice Community Grants Program: We have funding available for qualifying organizations that are working on projects related to ocean justice and community engagement.
  • Ocean Justice Advocacy Group: We are co-creating a national platform to elevate the voices of ocean advocacy groups.

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