Healthy and resilient marine ecosystems in the U.S. and Canada

In many geographies, our marine health is in decline. In North America’s Arctic Ocean, we are witnessing intense, climate-related disruption and recognize an urgent need to limit the number and severity of other human-caused ecosystem impacts—and similar impacts are being felt in the still thriving but increasingly threatened marine ecosystems of British Columbia. Threats to these ecosystems range from marine transportation to offshore industrial facilities to overfishing. And lining these coasts are communities – from remote villages to cities the size of Seattle – in which the fabric of life is often tied to marine health. 

Yet in all of these places, we see windows of opportunity for significant conservation. Specifically, the Marine Conservation Initiative is supporting those who are working toward:

  • Conservation and sustainable management in high priority geographies. Protecting ecologically important features, managing the range of human uses in those places and establishing frameworks for enduring health of the marine ecosystems of the North American Arctic and British Columbia;
  • Establishing key enabling conditions. Ensuring lasting conservation and community gains from New England and West Coast fisheries management reforms and East Coast ocean planning efforts to date; scaling engagement, lessons and conditions nationally in the U.S. and Canada.


High-priority conservation targets

In our work in the North American Arctic and British Columbia, we are working to protect ecologically important features, manage the range of human uses in those places and establish frameworks for the enduring health of marine ecosystems. Supporting activities in these regions include science synthesis, data integration and modernization, economic incentives for sustainable activities, technological solutions for transparency and accountability, community-based monitoring of ecosystem health, stakeholder engagement and constituency building, leadership and capacity development, sustainable financing mechanisms and strategic communications.

Establishing key enabling conditions

For the first phase of the initiative’s work (2004-2017), the bulk of our marine conservation funding focused on overfishing and habitat degradation as two of the largest, yet most solvable, threats to the oceans. Our grantees’ many achievements include the improvement of fisheries management systems in the U.S. and recovery of key commercial fisheries, support for the development of regional ocean plans on the East Coast of the U.S., and marine plans collaboratively developed and signed by 17 coastal First Nations and the province of British Columbia for the North Pacific Coast. Through 2020, we are supporting continued work on the fisheries management reform and ocean planning that underpin this work, to ensure that these conservation gains endure.

At the same time, engagement and wider scaling of approaches are critical in both the U.S. and Canada. To this end, we will continue to support key activities relevant to our geographies though grantees’ national-level work.

Aspirational outcome: healthy, resilient North American marine ecosystems that support sustainable use

Through 2024, we will focus on these globally significant places for conservation, addressing the threats they face through strategies that mitigate outsized drivers of degradation and secure habitat and conservation objectives.

Our geographical and ecological-bounded approach, combined and reinforced with work to establish conditions favorable to long-term and wide-scale conservation gains, aims, ultimately, to safeguard the healthy, resilient and magnificent marine ecosystems of the U.S. and Canada. 

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