Given our shared mission of protecting the ocean and securing a future for vulnerable coastal communities, WCS is excited to be a partner on Bloomberg Philanthropies' Vibrant Oceans Initiative. We spoke with Antha N. Williams, who leads environment programs for Bloomberg, on how the initiative will accomplish its goals for marine life and the people who depend on it in the face of climate change.
WCS: Why are you passionate about ocean conservation?
Antha Williams: As an environmental activist and a diver, I’ve seen firsthand how the climate crisis is affecting coastal communities, coral reefs, and marine ecosystems around the world. It’s incredibly sad that the climate pollution we’ve already created will warm the planet enough to destroy most coral reefs and significantly alter marine populations. As the impacts of the climate crisis become more severe, it’s clear that our oceans—along with the rest of our planet—are under threat. Luckily, we have the opportunity to act now to protect our oceans and better support the communities and species around the globe that depend on them.
WCS: What is the Vibrant Oceans Initiative?
AW: At Bloomberg, we’re dedicated to ensuring better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. Billions of people depend on our oceans to survive and thrive, and our Vibrant Oceans Initiative (VOI) is focused on supporting these coastal communities and protecting ocean resources. To ensure ocean ecosystems can survive in the face of climate change, we’re working to address the biggest, most immediate threats to our oceans: poor fishing practices, rapid coral reef decline, and illegal fishing. We work with world-class partners like WCS to protect coral reefs and other marine ecosystems, promote sustainable fisheries management, and create transparency around global fishing activities
“We’re working to address the biggest, most immediate threats: poor fishing practices, rapid coral reef decline, and illegal fishing.”
WCS: What does success for this Initiative look like?
AW: We have three core goals for VOI:
Win science-based policies for better fisheries management and marine protection in 10 target countries—with an eye on staying nimble to help additional countries pass data-driven policies.
Building on our previous research to identify the coral reefs that are least vulnerable to climate change, help protect these key coral geographies.
Increase transparency of global fishing activities to combat overfishing and protect coastal communities through our partnership with Global Fishing Watch.
WCS: We're excited to partner with you on VOI. Why did you choose WCS as a partner?
AW: WCS is a leader on global conservation efforts, and we’re grateful to be able to work together in executing our shared goals for ocean protection. We want to empower people and communities to better manage and protect ocean and marine resources, and like Bloomberg, WCS’s work is focused on helping people and communities. Our partnership started with the 50 Reefs research to identify the best ways to address the coral crisis in the face of climate change, and we’re excited to continue working closely on coral conservation and to expand our efforts into more countries.
WCS: Why is protecting coral reefs such a priority for the Vibrant Oceans Initiative?
AW: Coral reefs are vital to a healthy ocean ecosystem, providing habitat to countless marine species. The demise of corals will impact species and communities around the world. With 90% of the world’s corals currently projected to die by 2050 because of rising oceans temperatures and acidity due to climate change, there is no denying the need for immediate and bold action. As scientists have raised the alarm on climate—and on coral specifically—we’re committed to helping uncover and implement solutions for saving corals.
With our research, we’ve identified coral geographies that are likely less vulnerable to the climate crisis. By taking targeted, place-based action to address the most immediate threats to coral reefs—overfishing and pollution—we can avoid the irreversible. VOI is focused on protecting our coral reefs because we know that this is necessary in order for our oceans—and the billions of people who depend on them—to survive and thrive for decades to come.
WCS: What role do you see for local leaders and their communities in protecting coral reefs?
AW: Local leaders and communities are crucial when it comes to protecting coral reefs. VOI’s work with WCS, and other organizations like Rare, puts this belief into practice, empowering local leaders and communities alike to protect and preserve their marine ecosystems. From work with fishers, sustainable fisheries, and local coastal government and community organizations, we know that empowering local communities is a proven way to protect our oceans and maintain ocean livelihood in the short- and long-term.
WCS: What role can individuals play to protect the oceans every day?
AW: We all have a role to play in protecting our oceans, from understanding and opting for sustainable seafood (our partner Oceana has a helpful guide), to learning more about marine species and science, and calling decision-makers to ask them to support oceans protection. While it may seem like an issue that is only relevant to coastal communities, the truth is we’re all being affected by the climate crisis—and we must all work to combat it, now.
No matter where you live, being an advocate for our oceans, supporting organizations like WCS that are making a difference on the ground, and doing your best to act on climate are some of the best ways we can work to protect oceans. Getting people engaged and excited about conservation is what makes your mission at WCS so critical, and that is why Bloomberg is grateful to be working with you!
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