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Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative Reaches Crucial Milestone for Marine Conservation with Enactment of Fiji’s National Ocean Policy

Vibrant Oceans Initiative has supported adoption of ambitious marine conservation policies in ten countries around the world, protecting nearly 7 million square miles of ocean.

NEW YORK, NY – Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative (VOI) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) are celebrating the adoption of an ambitious National Ocean Policy in Fiji earlier this year. With this policy, supported additionally by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), VOI has reached its goal of supporting science-backed fisheries and marine conservation policies in at least ten countries by 2022, one year ahead of schedule. Since its inception in 2012, VOI has now supported the protection of nearly 7 million square miles of ocean across the world.

Collectively, the ten policies supported by VOI have established reef protection standards, facilitated the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs), increased transparency surrounding ocean vessel activity, and addressed illegal or unregulated fishing. Specific policies range from Chile categorizing illegal fishing as a felony and requiring fishery data to be reported to the Global Fishing Watch, to Cuba’s National Assembly instituting the nation’s first ever national fisheries law. Even more countries are expected to pass similar high-impact policies in the coming years, resulting in millions of more square miles of ocean being protected and VOI moving closer to its overall goal of protecting critical ocean resources for the  billions of people who rely on it for their health and livelihoods.

Beyond safeguarding coastal ecosystems and local economies, these ocean conservation and fisheries policies play a vital role in combating the global effects of climate change. In its World Oceans Assessment, the United Nations recently reported that the climate regulation benefits the ocean provides are being severely undermined by human activities and are at risk of disappearing completely. Fiji’s new policy demonstrates how countries can implement ambitious blue recovery strategies whose benefits go beyond their own borders.

“The ocean is absolutely essential for the global economy and for mitigating the impact of climate change, so it is encouraging to see that momentum continues to grow for science-backed conservation policies,” said Melissa Wright, Vibrant Oceans Initiative Lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Meeting our program goal ahead of schedule drives home the fact that more leaders around the world are recognizing the importance of ocean health and taking action to protect it.”

In Fiji, VOI’s support of WCS, IUCN and partners was crucial for shaping the content of  the policy, which will designate 30% of the nation’s 1.29 million square kilometers of ocean as MPAs and outline a goal of sustainably managing 100% of its ocean by 2030. The policy also protects the incredible biodiversity of Fiji, covering more than 10,000 km2 of coral reefs, which represent 350 hard coral species that support more than 1,200 fish species. WCS and IUCN actively participated in all national consultation workshops and meetings held with the Climate Change and International Cooperation Division under the Ministry of Economy. Furthermore, the consultants that helped draft the Ocean Policy with the Fijian Government directly referenced science produced by WCS. In addition to funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, WCS received support for this critical work from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“We congratulate the Fijian Government for this milestone policy to safeguard the ocean not only for our people and future generations, but as a larger gift to the planet,” said Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai, WCS Fiji Country Director. “Partnerships are critical, and WCS is looking forward to working closely with the Vibrant Oceans Initiative and the Fijian Government to achieve the vision set out in the Ocean Policy.”

The Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum thanked the critical support provided by the Vibrant Oceans Initiative in his opening remarks at the final National Stakeholder Workshop on Fiji’s National Ocean Policy “Before I leave you all to undertake a very important task today of endorsing the National Ocean Policy, I would like to thank our technical partners, the World Bank, IUCN and the Vibrant Oceans Initiative. Your assistance and insight has been invaluable”.

As one of the leading philanthropic initiatives in the ocean conservation space, VOI was launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies at a time when less than 1% of global philanthropy funding went to protecting the ocean. While additional funders have stepped in to support this critical issue and played a vital role in the passage of Fiji’s new policy, the ocean must remain the focus for new data-driven philanthropic initiatives.

“The Packard Foundation is proud of its past support for communities and partners, including WCS, in Fiji,” said John Claussen, Program Officer at the Packard Foundation. “National policies like the one Fiji just passed take a collaborative approach and consistent effort to get across the finish line. The result is a win for the people of Fiji and the ocean agenda globally.”

Beyond Fiji’s national ocean policy, VOI supported the adoption of nine other high-impact, science-based fisheries and marine protection policies, including:

  • The first ever national fisheries law in Cuba
  • One policy establishing robust import control rules in Japan to combat illegal fishing and the other updating the country’s national fisheries law, the first in 70 years.
  • The first comprehensive update to The Bahamas’ national fisheries policy in nearly 50 years.
  • One policy instituting regional fisheries management guidelines in the Philippines that created 12 fisheries management areas and the second establishing management policies around local sardine populations.
  • Legislation in Chile that requires vessel data to be public and makes illegal fishing a felony.
  • Amendments to Canada’s Ocean Act to streamline establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) and set minimum ocean protection standards.
  • Updates to Mozambique’s national fisheries regulations to allow legal recognition of managed access areas, no-take reserves, and community co-management.
  • A national marine spatial plan in Seychelles that includes 30% protection of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
  • A national marine spatial plan approved by Niue’s cabinet including protection of 40% of the EEZ

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Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative:
As climate change increasingly threatens key ocean ecosystems, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative is working around the world to advance evidence-based conservation practices and implement data-driven policies to protect our oceans and the 3 billion people that depend on them. Launched in 2014, Bloomberg’s Vibrant Oceans Initiative currently operates with partners Rare, Oceana, Global Fishing Watch, and the Wildlife Conservation Society in 10 countries that are top fishing nations – Australia, the Bahamas, Chile, Fiji, French Polynesia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania, Peru, and the United States – to win science-based policies, protect priority coral reefs least vulnerable to climate change, and increase transparency through the adoption of national fishing data platforms.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 810 cities and 170 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.6 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok.

Media Contact:
Daphne Wang – Bloomberg Philanthropies, +1 646-771-1473, daphne@bloomberg.org