In 2013, the Aspen Institute published The Ocean Community Report, a study based on a 2012 roundtable discussion with oceans leaders at Fort Baker, California on the state of ocean conservation, as well as two research papers on marine protection advocacy, policy and management.
The report’s recommendations suggested opportunities for improving the effectiveness of collaboration among ocean conservation advocacy groups, funders and policymakers, including taking advantage of the synergies between conservation tools, reframing ocean conservation as a solution to other national issues, and promoting win-win conservation opportunities.
Building on this report, a second gathering of oceans experts was convened one year later at Aspen Wye River to assess the steps required for scaling investment in and deployment of ocean conservation tools in both small-scale coastal fisheries and large-scale MPAs. This roundtable served as a platform for the community to discuss and develop its alignment of conservation priorities with socioeconomic goals and advance innovative conservation financing opportunities.
Based on these 2013 discussions at Wye River, and Aspen’s Ocean Community Report, the following recommendations have been forwarded for continued reflection and prioritization by the ocean community:
- Public-Private Partnerships on ocean conservation should be built around the needs of local governments and communities—rather than solely around MPAs, MSP or biodiversity—and focus on specific local fisheries problems, food security challenges and economic needs. This approach will get at the heart of the particular goals in which that country will be more willing to invest public funds. The global replication of successful marine protection requires the development of a clear and strong value proposition, such that the conservation community becomes an agent for establishing the systems and benefits that local leaders themselves want. Moving forward, the conservation community must apply a nuanced understanding of strategies for inspiring local leadership in this way, especially in the case of initially unreceptive governments.
- Scaling marine protection to the levels required for global impact will require significant partnership with not only government but with the private sector, specifically with corporations. Where MPAs, MSP or TURFs may gain little traction, developing a stronger economic development approach of selling a specific goal (in this case, long-term conservation of marine resources) will help coastal communities to understand the product being offered and better recognize its value. The private sector—especially corporations dependent on coastal resilience—is particularly interested in the sustainability of small scale artisanal fisheries, and so will lead the way in creating sustainable ocean economies by investing in coastal resilience and implementing technologies that make enhanced marine protection and monitoring possible.
- An innovative and landscape-changing approach to replicating marine conservation is coordination by NGOs or funders using a subcontractor model of partnership and coordination, whereby a single NGO or funder entity develops the demand and commitment from local political leadership, and then delivers on the goals by establishing partnerships with those best prepared to achieve specific goals.