$20 Billion Raised During 8th Annual Ocean Conference To Help Protect Earth’s Precious Waters


In a bid to save the planet’s beautiful oceans, international delegates that attended the eighth annual Our Ocean Conference held in Panama from March 2 – 3 pledged billions of dollars to help. The participants made 341 commitments, which in turn made up almost $20 billion. This includes funds to expand and improve marine protected areas and biodiversity corridors across the globe. Notably, former Our Ocean conferences have collected around $108 billion from over 1,800 commitments.

Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, who happens to be Panama’s president, inaugurated the event. He explained in a statement that the conference was an opportunity for “countries of the world to hold frank conservations with the purpose of committing ourselves to actions for the preservation and strengthening of life in the ocean.”

“As Panamanians we inhabit a narrow strip surrounded by blue. To protect it, we should all think of the ocean as a source of life and recognize it as a great ally in our fight against the climate and biodiversity crises.”

Interestingly, Panama happens to be the very first Latin American country to host the Our Ocean conference. They also announced at the event that it would add 36,058 square miles to Banco Volcán Marine Protected Area in the Caribbean Sea, a protected area that’s known for its deep-sea mountain ranges and high biodiversity.

This protected area was established back in 2015, protecting 5,487 square miles of ocean. The expansion will bring the total amount of ocean protection to over 54% of Panama’s economic zone.

Héctor Guzmán, a marine biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and co-founder of the marine conservation network MigraMar, said “With the protection of more than half of its seas, including extensive ocean reserves on both sides of the isthmus, Panama is not only ensuring the conservation of its marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of the people who depend on these ecosystems in the long-term, but is also positioned to lead a much more ambitious regional effort.”

The Ministry of Environment for Panama also explained at the conference that the country was hoping to stop more than 160,000 tons of plastic from being imported and consumed in the country. This would be by eradicating single-use plastics such as cups and utensils, virgin plastic, and plastic packaging.

Meanwhile, other charitable organizations, such as Bloomberg Philanthropies and Arcadia, made other commitments to establish funding worth $51 million in order to help support NGOs, local communities, Indigenous peoples, and governments. According to Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, the hope is to broaden and better marine protection while working towards protecting at least 30% of the oceans by the year 2030.

Moreover, another alliance of organizations, foundations and private donors have also committed to donating up to $5 million. This is to help developing countries that would like to participate in the high seas treaty that was negotiated and agreed upon in New York. This occurred at the same time as the Our Ocean Conference took place.

Recently, the Connect to Protect Eastern Tropical Pacific Coalition, which is comprised of various organizations, has pledged a total of $118.5 million from both private and public sources. The funds are intended to bolster the preservation efforts of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR), an expanse of more than 500,000 square kilometers – or 193,000 square miles – of biologically diverse and highly productive waters spanning Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica.

As for the oceans and climate director at the nonprofit Blue Marine Foundation, Dan Crockett, who also attended the conference, he said that the amount and worth of the commitments that have been made to protect the planet’s waters were “impressive.”

Crockett told Mongabay, “There was a strength to the amount of money being put on the table.”

Crockett also shared that he felt ‘encouraged’ to see countries that were working mutually to create marine protected areas across political boundaries, like that of the CMAR development, that can help protect particular migratory species that “do not know about or respect” country boundaries.

“That really was and continues to be incredibly inspiring and encouraging. If environment ministers can set down their differences and come together around ambitious ocean conservation, it provides a lot of hope,” Crockett added.

As for the chief executive officer of the platform Global Fishing Watch, Tony Long, he said that the conference attendees showed a “clear commitment to providing ocean sustainability,” as well as much needed motivation to make these changes happen. He also said that the crucial next step will be to push for these commitments to be put into action.

Long explained, “There have been some fantastic commitments here, but we still need those actions to take place. The more we see the community come together to drive those actions forward, the quicker the health of our ocean will be maintained.”


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