A scuba diver attaches pieces of coral to a coral-covered rock.
Coral Restoration First-of-its-kind habitat map guided reef restoration efforts in one of the Dominican Republic’s most vital marine areas © Paul A. Selvaggio
Land & Water Stories

Protecting Our Ocean

Deepening Solutions for People and the Planet

Manta ray swimming by.
Cruising Manta Manta Ray cruising effortlessly past near Sangalaki Island, Borneo. © John Olewicz/TNC Photo Contest

Protecting Ocean Species and Their Habitats

In celebration of Avatar: The Way of Water, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has partnered with Disney and Avatar to protect 10 of our ocean’s amazing animals and their habitats, connected to the beauty of Pandora. Together, we can keep our oceans amazing and help TNC protect 10% of the ocean by 2030.

Why is the ocean so important?

No matter where we live, the ocean is essential to our lives. It supplies 50% of the oxygen we breathe and is the home to fish and other species that provide food and income for more than three billion people. Its coral reefs and oyster beds shelter marine life and protect our shores by breaking up wave energy and storm surges.

On the edges of the ocean, coastal wetlands—such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows—protect our shores, too. They also draw in carbon as they grow and transfer it into their leaves, stems and the rich soils held by their roots. This “blue carbon” can remain in the soil for thousands of years. In fact, coastal wetlands store five times more carbon per hectare than rainforests, helping to limit further climate change.

Giant yellowfin tuna.
Reduce Illegal Fishing Technology, such as on-board cameras and sensors, is reducing illegal fishing in the global canned tuna supply chain. © Jeff Rotman/NPL/Minden Pictures
Common thresher shark.
Protect Ocean Habitat We're establishing new protected ocean areas for all species, like this common thresher shark, and helping better manage coastal habitats. © Norbert Probst
Reduce Illegal Fishing Technology, such as on-board cameras and sensors, is reducing illegal fishing in the global canned tuna supply chain. © Jeff Rotman/NPL/Minden Pictures
Protect Ocean Habitat We're establishing new protected ocean areas for all species, like this common thresher shark, and helping better manage coastal habitats. © Norbert Probst

But the world is changing fast. We’re seeing rapidly growing demand for food, energy and water for the more than 7 billion people on our planet—and that means more pressure on the ocean and its resources. Meanwhile, our changing climate is leading to hotter seas, more intense storms and more frequent flooding.

With half the world’s population living on or near coastlines, these changes are affecting our food, livelihoods and safety. We need to act now to restore the ocean’s health while also meeting the growing demand for seafood and jobs. And we need to safeguard coastal villages and cities while reducing the risks from climate change. The stakes have never been higher.

The World's Goal: Protect 30% of the Ocean by 2030

TNC supports the global goal of protecting 30% of the planet’s ocean, lands and freshwater over the next decade. To contribute to that goal, by 2030 TNC intends to conserve 4  billion hectares (more than 10% of the world’s ocean area) while benefitting 100 million people at severe risk of climate-related emergencies.

Learn more about all of TNC's 2030 goals.

Our Ocean Conservation Strategies

1. We Protect and Restore Ocean Habitats

We help protect, restore and improve the management of ocean habitats by:

  • A split view of coral reefs under the water and mountains of Lord Howe Island visible in the distance.

    How Radical Collaboration Can Save Coral Reefs

    We've already lost half the ocean's reefs—now the fate of the other half depends on governments, local communities and the private sector. Our window of opportunity is open.

  • A mother humpback whale with her baby in dark ocean water.

    Life Depends on Marine Conservation

    Ensuring our ocean remains resilient is no easy task, but protecting it is too important to the future of the planet for us not to succeed. And it is too urgent to wait any longer. We need to talk about the ocean.

  • Close up of a baby sea turtle swimming just below the surface of the water.

    Blue Bonds: Unlocking Funding for Conservation

    Smarter decisions about how we use and invest in nature for marine conservation and climate change adaptation will make a profound difference for the more than 2 billion people living in coastal regions. Our audacious plan.

2. We Reduce the Impacts of Climate Change on the Ocean

We tackle climate risks and build coastal resilience by:

  • Helping coastal communities plan for and adapt to our changing climate through nature-based solutions, such as restoring reefs, mangroves, salt marshes and other habitats that guard against storms and flooding
  • Teaming up with Stanford University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to identify and protect “Super Reefs” that can survive hotter temperatures, and use them to seed new generations of resilient corals
  • Financing coastal conservation through cutting-edge projects, such as blue carbon resilience credits and insurance policies for reefs and mangroves that pay out when natural disasters strike
  • An underwater view of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in Mexico and fierce waves above.

    Insuring Nature to Ensure a Resilient Future

    How and why the world’s first coral reef insurance policy is paying to repair hurricane damages. The Reef Brigades to the rescue.

  • Aerial view of the Nahtik Marine Protected Area adjacent to the Enipein Mangrove Forest Reserve, Pohnpei, Micronesia.

    Investing in Blue Carbon for a Resilient Future

    How coastal wetlands can protect communities and store a level of carbon equivalent to stopping the burning of over 2 billion barrels of oil. The enormous impact of wetlands.

Cover of Global Reefs Report 2022
Global Reefs Impact Report 2022 © TNC

Global Reefs Impact Report 2022

Coral and shellfish reefs are in danger, but the extent of damage varies based on local conditions and whether reefs are being managed effectively. The good news is that some reefs are showing remarkable signs of recovery.
View the 2022 Global Reefs Impact Report >

3. We Support Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

We work with partners to promote responsible fishing and farming, including:

  • Applying the latest science to make fish and shrimp farming more sustainable and supporting seaweed and shellfish farms that benefit farmers and restore ocean health
  • Using our FishPath engagement process and tool to help fisheries managers in at least 15 countries set their coastal fisheries on the path to sustainability
  • Partnering with the Marshall Islands and Walmart to transform the global canned tuna supply chain, including by using technology (such as on-board video cameras and sensors) to prevent illegal fishing and limit bycatch of turtles, sharks and dolphins
  • Several small fishing boats with fishers crowded in the water.

    A healthy ocean depends on sustainably managed fisheries

    How TNC brings innovative solutions and science to global fisheries challenges, ensuring healthy marine and freshwater ecosystems and thriving communities. Discover our approach.

  • Trainers and local seaweed farmers, Bi Kombo Rashidi Ali and Time Asaka Kasim, stand in the water at the Tumbe seaweed pilot site in Pemba, Tanzania.

    Restorative aquaculture helps nature and communities

    New research shows that aquaculture can help restore ocean health, as well as support economic development and food production in coastal communities worldwide—if it's done right. Uncover the opportunity.

  • Brian Gennaco of Virgin Oyster Company holds an oyster out to the camera.

    Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR)

    Why we purchased more than 5 million surplus farmed oysters to use in nearby oyster restoration projects. A win for oceans and business.

Global Insights in Your Inbox

A monthly newsletter for those who believe that, together, we can build a better future for people and the planet. We address the sustainability issues of the moment and explore potential solutions—all in a five-minute read or less.