Press Release

70 Countries, 100s of NGOs, Pledge New Action to Protect Oceans: Billions in Commitments Show Continued Support of Ocean Conservation

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Contact: Caiti Goodman, [email protected], 202-478-3437

Washington, DC – At the fifth annual Our Oceans Conference, held this year in Bali, Indonesia, leaders representing more than 70 countries and over 200 non-governmental organizations and private companies met and presented a total of 307 actionable commitments, valued at $11 billion, to address critical problems facing stewardship of ocean resources and maritime security. This year’s conference yielded nearly twice as many commitments as 2017.  The Stimson Center’s environmental security program served as central advisor to the Indonesian host government.

The Our Oceans Conference is an international tool to enhance partnerships between various ocean stakeholders around the world. It focuses on generating commitments and taking actions for marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, maritime security, The Blue Economy and climate change-related impacts to the ocean. The annual event was begun by Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014 with the goal of elevating ocean issues to a foreign policy imperative and result in concrete, tangible commitments.

“The OOC is all about commitments and action — since 2014, there have been close to 1,000 commitments totaling about $29 billion for ocean conservation with over 26 million square kilometers of the ocean protected,” said Sally Yozell, Director of the Environmental Security Program at the Stimson Center.

“We are proud to have played an important role in the success of the Our Oceans Conference,” said Brian Finlay, President and CEO of the Stimson Center. “The challenges of the 21st century can only be met when states, NGOs and businesses alike work collaboratively to address mutual threats. We make it Stimson’s mission to not just develop new policy ideas, but to be part of implementing real world solutions.”

Notable Commitments made at the 2018 conference include…

  • Bloomberg Philanthropies and OceanX pledge a combined $186 million of funding to explore and protect the oceans over the next four years, including climate research and climate and ocean resiliency activities.
  • The NGO Rare commits to mobilize an additional $53 million by 2021 in support of sustainable small-scale fisheries and continued implementation of Fish Forever, a community-rights based coastal fisheries management initiative, with extensive work in the Philippines and Indonesia.
  • The Federate States of Micronesia announced a commitment to achieve 100% electronic monitoring (e-monitoring) coverage on industrial fishing vessels operating in its waters by 2023.
  • Canada proposed a new conservation area to protect dense corals found in the Eastern Canyons which is located approximately 60 km east of Sable Island off Banquereau, covering approximately 36,284 km2. Once established, this area will contribute towards the Marine Protected Area network which is under development in the Scotian Shelf bioregion in Atlantic Canada and is expected to contribute towards Canada’s marine conservation targets as a marine refuge.
  • Indonesia announced $27.8 million to marine and fisheries surveillance activities to combat destructive fishing and other illegal fishing activities with increased surveillance by patrol vessels, in air surveillance, increased marine and fisheries crime investigations, expanded Marine Protected Area surveillance, enhanced community based surveillance participation, combatting destructive fishing and any other illegal fishing activities.
  • Japan announced allocating $167 million in 2018 to monitoring, research and reducing marine litter in Japan’s coast and ocean waters and to develop countermeasures to tackle marine debris internationally though cooperation with Asian countries.

China notably absent

Unfortunately there were no commitments made from China this year, despite it making commitments at the last four conferences. Last year, China pledged it would implement a coastal water renovation project to meet the Chinese National Water Quality Standard by 2020, strengthen the conservation of the natural coastline, and dedicated $8 million worth of national research projects and formulate plans for action against plastic waste pollution from marine wastes. Outside of the conference, China pledged to reduce its distant water fishing industry and announced a 3,000-vessel distant water fishing fleet cap. However, China’s central government has subsidized an upgrade in deep-sea fishing vessels and international fishing, has put seasonal closures on its own fishing grounds and has been forced to look to more distant sources, undermining sustainable development, the fisheries management of its neighbors, and long-held rules of maritime security.

“Due to China’s strong showing in previous years, it was disappointing to see them take a step back at this year’s OOC,” said Yozell. “This is a step away from their momentum towards full cooperation and commitment to ocean security issues”


This was the first Our Oceans Conference held in Asia, highlighting the urgency for ocean regulation in the region. As one of the largest archipelagic states with 17,000 islands, Indonesia, in collaboration with the World Bank, several NGOs, corporations and foundations, pledged almost $500 million to marine conservation and marine surveillance of fisheries in the region.

To learn more about the Stimson Center’s environmental security program, please click here.


The Stimson Center is a nonpartisan policy research center working to protect people, preserve the planet, and promote security and prosperity.

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Contact Caitlin Goodman at [email protected] or 202-478-3437.

Our main line is  202-223-5956.

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