Archived Project

Global Ocean Legacy


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An Ocean in Crisis

The ocean plays an essential role in sustaining life on our planet. It covers nearly three-fourths of the globe and is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s known species—and many more yet to be discovered. The ocean provides sustenance for billions of people and myriad wildlife.

But human activities increasingly threaten its health. For example:

  • About 1 in 5 fish caught in the wild is taken illegally or in unreported fisheries.
  • 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited or overexploited.
  • Populations of some species of top predator fish have declined by more than 90 percent from historic levels.
  • The impact of humans on oceans and coasts has put more than 60 percent of tropical coral reefs under threat.

Less than two percent of the ocean is fully protected compared with 15 percent of land. Research shows that very large, fully protected marine reserves are key to rebuilding species abundance and diversity and protecting the overall health of the marine environment.

Creating the Great Parks of the Sea

When Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, it not only ensured protection for one of the United States’ most spectacular landscapes, it was the beginning of a new way of thinking about protecting the environment. 

More recently this approach has been applied to oceans, accompanying a growing recognition of their essential role in sustaining life on the planet. Global Ocean Legacy, a project of Pew and its partners, is working with local communities, governments and scientists around the world to protect and conserve some of our most important and unspoiled ocean environments. Together we are establishing the world’s first generation of great marine parks by securing the designation of large, fully protected reserves. To date, our efforts have helped to safeguard 6.3 million square kilometers of ocean—an area 12 times the size of Central America. This accounts for about 80 percent of all fully protected ocean to date.


Global Ocean Legacy is a partnership of philanthropic leaders who share a vision: to protect the world’s ocean for future generations by creating 15 great parks in the sea—all at least 200,000 square kilometers (75,000 square miles)—by 2022. Founded in 2006, each partner in the initiative assumes an “equal share,” leveraging their investment and working together to select reserve sites and make critical decisions in every project’s direction and strategy. 

Pew is grateful to the Sandler Foundation, the Tubney Charitable Trust, and the other founding members of Global Ocean Legacy, many of whom are still involved today.

Our current partners are Bloomberg PhilanthropiesLyda HillOak FoundationThe Robertson Foundation, and The Tiffany & Co. Foundation.

Island Voices

Global Ocean Legacy has long worked with Pacific island communities to protect the ocean. Island Voices brings together artists, educators, former government officials, and traditional Pacific voyagers to support the creation of large, fully protected marine reserves. Learn more about the Island Voices collaboration here.

Science Advisory Board

Global Ocean Legacy’s Scientific Advisory Board is comprised of seven esteemed scientists with expertise in marine biology and fisheries disciplines. These board members guide our efforts to help create the world’s first generation of great marine parks. Learn more about the Scientific Advisory Board here.

Global Ocean Legacy

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media contact

Kevin Connor

Manager, Communications


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Join the partnership to create marine parks protecting vital ocean waters.

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