LISBON, PORTUGAL (Monday, June 27, 2022) — The Bezos Earth Fund announced its first ocean conservation grant to National Geographic Pristine Seas during the National Geographic Ocean Night at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon. Over the next five years through the support of this grant, the Pristine Seas team will be exploring, documenting and conducting research in the central and western Pacific Ocean, a region that contains the highest marine biodiversity on the planet, most of which is unprotected from extractive activities.
“The ocean is our planet’s life support system and a major carbon sink,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. “Investing in the ocean can be a powerful solution to many major challenges. It can protect vital marine ecosystems, provide jobs, help local communities, improve food security, and address climate change. These commitments are the first of many the Bezos Earth Fund will make to support marine protection in this decisive decade.”
The National Geographic Society allocates 100% of all grants received and funds raised to bolster its priorities and mission-driven efforts, including investing in its Explorer-led programs like Pristine Seas. The Bezos Earth Fund grant directly supports the Society’s “Ocean” area of focus; one of the five focus areas outlined in the Society’s five-year strategic plan NG Next.
“It is vital to explore the depths of our oceans to better understand how we can protect it,” said Jill Tiefenthaler, CEO of National Geographic Society. “We are extremely grateful to the Bezos Earth Fund for their generous investment and shared commitment to planetary stewardship. This grant will enable the Society to continue championing the critical work of our Pristine Seas program, accelerating our mission and global impact in support of our strategic plan.”
Since 2008, Pristine Seas has worked alongside local communities, Indigenous Peoples, governments and other partners to help create 25 marine protected areas across the global ocean, covering a total of 6.5 million square kilometers of ocean — an area more than twice the size of India.
“It is an honor to receive this grant. It provides us with an exciting opportunity to work with local partners to accelerate, scale and finance permanent ocean protection,” said Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Founder of Pristine Seas. “This grant allows Pristine Seas to continue to provide countries and local communities with the assistance and support they need to create marine protected areas and achieve their ocean conservation and economic goals.”
The tropical Pacific harbors the largest tuna fishing operation on the planet, and global warming is reducing ocean productivity and displacing tuna populations outside the region. Increased ocean protection would not only be good for marine life but also for local communities through fisheries benefits, increased food security and mitigation of climate change. Currently only 10% of the island nations’ waters in the tropical Pacific are highly protected.
Through the power of exploration, research and storytelling, the Pristine Seas team engages with governments and local communities on the importance and significant benefits of marine protected areas. Indigenous Peoples and local communities and key partners are vital to ensuring that the process of creating and managing a marine protected area is developed by and owned by the community. Pristine Seas aims to target four new areas for protection every year.
Sala said, “To ensure that local communities can continue benefiting from a healthy ocean, we need to build a blue economy where protection, production and prosperity all work together in unison.”
ABOUT PRISTINE SEAS
National Geographic Pristine Seas is an exploration, research and media project founded and led by National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala. The Pristine Seas team is comprised of determined scientists, policy experts and filmmakers who work to inspire the creation of protected areas where marine life can thrive—while ensuring effective management for years to come. Pristine Seas has helped to inspire the creation of 25 marine reserves, an area totalling over 6.5M square kilometers. Learn more at nationalgeographic.org/pristineseas.