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Nature Conservancy

Oceans are at a crossroads. We must seize the opportunity to sustain them.  #OurOcean

  • Maria Damanaki is the Global Managing Director for Oceans at The Nature Conservancy.
  • Today, people look to our oceans more than ever to meet our basic needs and for continued economic growth.
  • Charting a sustainable course for oceans and people
  • With population and economic growth increasing exponentially in the developing world, decisions we make today will determine the health of our oceans.
  • Humanity must choose whether we will be the greatest danger to the ocean, or its greatest hope.”

Oceans are essential to our lives. They provide us with food, jobs, medicine, recreation and protection — everything we need for prosperity, security and survival. But as our global population soars, the demands on oceans, coasts and the resources they provide are stressing our seas to their limits. Poorly planned housing and tourism development is eroding coastlines, coral and oyster reefs, wetlands and mangroves. And evolving technologies for commercial fishing, aquaculture, offshore drilling, shipping and other industries are dramatically increasing pressure on limited resources.

@nature_org: Oceans are at a crossroads. We must seize the opportunity to sustain them. #OurOcean

Oceans are essential to our lives. They provide us with food, jobs, medicine, recreation and protection — everything we need for prosperity, security and survival. But as our global population soars, the demands on oceans, coasts and the resources they provide are stressing our seas to their limits. Poorly planned housing and tourism development is eroding coastlines, coral and oyster reefs, wetlands and mangroves. And evolving technologies for commercial fishing, aquaculture, offshore drilling, shipping and other industries are dramatically increasing pressure on limited resources.

Underscoring the challenge is the fact that today the value of the ocean’s natural systems is largely disconnected from these investments and development decisions. The results can be devastating: polluted waters, collapsed fisheries, damaged wetlands and dying reefs. When these systems collapse, so too can the communities and economies that are built on the services they provide. This is the price of business as usual.

But there is another way forward — one that ensures that conservation has a central voice in the world’s growing ocean economy. We call it Blue Growth by Design.

With population and economic growth increasing exponentially in the developing world, decisions we make today will determine the health of our oceans. The opportunity to influence those decisions is now. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for governments, communities, coastal planners, conservation experts, and businesses and industry. Collectively, we can preserve and restore healthy ocean systems while tackling poverty, job scarcity, climate change and economic instability. We can place ocean development on a sustainable trajectory.

Maria Damanaki is the Global Managing Director for Oceans at The Nature Conservancy. She leads a global team focused on transforming how the world manages its oceans, with a focus on investing in natural infrastructure, such as coral reefs and wetlands, to reduce climate risks and sustain ocean health; promoting sustainable fisheries management and legal fish trade; and managing and protecting ocean and coastal habitats in ways that continue to provide benefits to nature and people.

She believes that the only path to lasting, tangible results for a sustainable blue economy is collaboration across public, private and civil sectors – at both global and local levels – while always respecting the needs of both nature and people.

Maria Damanaki is the Global Managing Director for Oceans at The Nature Conservancy. She leads a global team focused on transforming how the world manages its oceans, with a focus on investing in natural infrastructure, such as coral reefs and wetlands, to reduce climate risks and sustain ocean health; promoting sustainable fisheries management and legal fish trade; and managing and protecting ocean and coastal habitats in ways that continue to provide benefits to nature and people.

She believes that the only path to lasting, tangible results for a sustainable blue economy is collaboration across public, private and civil sectors – at both global and local levels – while always respecting the needs of both nature and people.

With over 30 years of public service in Europe, Maria most recently served the past four years as European Union Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Under her leadership, the Commission was able to bring fish populations back to healthier levels—from as few as five sustainable stocks in 2010 to up to 27 today. In just the next five years, the continuation of her fisheries policy efforts could lead to 15 million more tons of fish in the sea, 30 percent more jobs and the equivalent of over US $2 billion in additional revenue. She also introduced and implemented the Blue Growth agenda for Seas and Oceans in Europe, which aimed to create 1.6 million new jobs and the equivalent of US $750 billion in revenue by 2020 in sectors such as coastal tourism, ocean energy, and marine biotechnology. In addition, she established legislation to create a common framework for Marine Spatial Planning to map and better manage maritime activities across EU countries.

Maria previously served as a member of Greek Parliament for more than 25 years, and was the youngest-ever Member of Parliament when she was first elected in 1977. She became the first woman to lead a political party in Greece in 1990, preceded by being the first woman elected as Vice President of Parliament in 1986.

Born on the Greek island of Crete, Maria graduated with honors from the National Technical University of Athens with a Master of Science in chemical engineering. There, she played a leading role in the underground student opposition of the Greek military junta. She has authored four books on European issues, human rights, education and women’s rights.

Maria is based in the Conservancy’s London office. She enjoys traveling and spending time around the Greek islands with her three grown children.

Nature Conservancy