Executive Summary

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    This report provides the most comprehensive review of funding for marine conservation over the past decade (2010-2020). To prepare this research, Our Shared Seas analyzed ocean funding across four sources: philanthropy, development aid, NGO discretionary funding (e.g., non-foundation funding), and private finance. This section features key takeaways from the research.

    In 2019, approximately USD 3.1 billion in funding was allocated to marine conservation globally from philanthropic, development aid, NGO discretionary funding, and private finance sources.

    Funding for marine issues by source, in 2016 (USD) placeholder

    Funding levels for marine conservation from philanthropy and official development assistance (ODA) have been roughly comparable in size over the past decade.

    Total ocean-related grants from philanthropic and ODA sources, 2010–2019 (USD)

    Philanthropic funding for marine conservation has doubled over the past decade, from roughly USD 520 million in 2010 to USD 1.2 billion in 2020.

    Philanthropic ocean-related grantmaking (2010–2020)

    Given methodological refinements, we request that readers reference this report for comprehensive 2010-2020 funding figures. Comparing results across previous editions of this report (version one in 2017 and version two in 2019) is not an apples-to-apples comparison. This edition includes a consistent methodology for estimating funding across the full time period of 2010-2020.

    New entrants into the sector and growing commitments from existing funders are driving the increase in ocean funding over the past decade.

    New funders are expanding the resources available in support of marine conservation work globally, and a subset of emerging funders are playing an influential role in the landscape by contributing a significant share of total grantmaking. In parallel, several existing funders have also expanded their commitments for marine conservation in recent years.

    Top 20 Marine Philanthropic Funders, 2010-2020 (USD)

    Over the past decade, top areas of marine grantmaking have included science (21 percent) and protected areas and habitat protection (17 percent). Ocean-climate is an emerging area of grantmaking. Funding for this issue grew from USD 3.6 million in 2010 to nearly USD 50 million in 2020.

    Marine philanthropic funding by issue area (2010-2020)

    funding by issue area graphic

    Source: Our Shared Seas, 2021. “A Decade of Ocean Funding: 2010-2020 Landscape Review.” 2021. Note: Funding for pollution and industrial stressors is largely dominated by a roughly USD 100 million annual grant for oil spill response capacity.

    Marine conservation grantmaking has historically allocated a large proportion of funding to global initiatives (40 percent) and work focused on North America (32 percent). Over the past decade, an increased proportion of marine funding (15 percent) was allocated to Asia. Funding to Africa remains limited, at less than 3 percent of philanthropic funding.

    Proportion of philanthropic funding by geography (2010–2020)

    Location Total Funding (2010–2020) % of Funding Average Annual Growth Rate
    Antarctica $22M 0.3% 373%
    Arctic $92M 1.2% 80%
    Africa $196M 2.5% 63%
    Oceania $66.6M 0.8% 53%
    High Seas $29.6M 0.4% 30%
    South America $184M 2.3% 22%
    Global $3.1B 39.4% 14%
    Asia $1.2B 14.8% 12%
    North America $2.6B 32.4% 8%
    Europe $649M 8.2% 6%

    Sources: Our Shared Seas, 2021. “A Decade of Ocean Funding: 2010-2020 Landscape Review.” 2021.

    Over the past decade, marine philanthropy allocated the largest proportion of funding to global initiatives (35 percent) and North America (30 percent), whereas the development sector focused primarily on Africa (33 percent) and Asia (25 percent).

    Marine-related grantmaking from philanthropic and ODA sources, 2015-2016 (USD)