France hosted representatives from more than 100 countries at the One Ocean Summit in the French city of Brest from Feb. 9-11, 2022. The summit aimed to “raise the collective level of ambition of the international community on marine issues” and turn the global responsibility to “[safeguard] the ocean into tangible commitments” by addressing challenges such as pollution and overfishing. Ocean sustainability is key to the success of global economies. Marine conservation has an array of humanitarian benefits and can help alleviate poverty in developing nations.

One Ocean Summit

Water covers more than 70% of Earth’s surface, meaning that oceans are a critical part of everyday life for people across the globe. Prior to the One Ocean Summit, few international meetings focused directly and solely on ocean conservation. The One Ocean Summit aimed to highlight the vast importance of healthy oceans, with an emphasis on ocean resources, trade and the multitude of connections between marine and human life. The summit addressed threats to healthy oceans, including resource exploitation, pollution and extreme weather events.

In response to the issues brought to light by the One Ocean Summit, with the support of its Member States, the private sector and other U.N. bodies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made a commitment to map by 2030 80% of the global ocean seabed, 20% of which was mapped prior to the summit. Mapping the seabed will help countries better understand oceans and marine resources and learn how to conserve them. The One Ocean Summit also led to other initiatives that will help protect marine ecosystems, promote sustainable fishing and combat pollution, especially in relation to plastics.

Ocean Conservation and Poverty Reduction

Healthy oceans are essential to sustainable development. Oceans provide food, natural resources and employment to people around the world. Marine degradation often affects tropical, low-income areas the most. As sea levels/temperatures rise, fish migrate to other locations, which creates challenges for people who rely on fishing for their livelihoods. An unsustainable supply of fish can lead to food insecurity in places where the seafood is the main source of sustenance and protein. Multinational efforts are necessary to fund and promote effective ocean conservation. The seabed mapping project from the One Ocean Summit will help nations discover and execute best practices for ocean conservation.

Future Steps

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified marine pollution, especially because of the “increased demand for single-use plastics.” According to the World Bank, ocean conservation relies on a combination of policies, monetary investments, technological innovations, a collaboration between public and private organizations and changes in consumer behavior. Governments can create and enforce laws in favor of ocean conservation while the private sector can help fund ocean conservation efforts and create new innovations to support the cause. Public and private collaborations that promote ocean sustainability may be particularly useful when it comes to reducing plastic pollution. International meetings like the One Ocean Summit can make large-scale steps in fighting threats to healthy oceans, including marine pollution and overfishing.

Ocean sustainability directly connects to poverty reduction and socio-economic development. Marine conservation is highly valuable in areas where fishing is essential to economic success. As a global resource, the ocean relies on international collaboration to stay healthy. The One Ocean Summit models a constructive international effort to conserve the world’s oceans.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Scuba Diving Can Alleviate Poverty
Scuba diving is the practice of underwater diving with a SCUBA, an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The United States Special Force’s frogmen initially used this during the Second World War. Through this technology, divers can go underwater without connecting to a surface oxygen supply. The main aim for many scuba divers today is dive tourism, with marine conservation trailing closely behind. It is through these conservation efforts and tourism businesses in coastal areas that plenty of communities have found themselves being alleviated from poverty. Scuba diving can alleviate poverty due to the new employment opportunities that arise through environmental efforts, as well as the work scuba diving training businesses provide.

Although the Earth’s equatorial belt possesses 75 percent of the world’s most productive and beautiful coral reefs, this area is home to over 275 million individuals living under poverty. These are individuals who depend directly on coral reefs, fish and marine resources for their food, security and income.

According to Judi Lowe, Ph.D. in Dive Tourism, these incredible bio-diverse coral reefs have immense potential for dive tourism. However, conflicts are currently present between dive operators and local communities due to a limited supply of essential resources. If businesses in the diving industry turned to greener practices and focused on indigenous local communities, they could achieve marine conservation, along with poverty alleviation.

Integrated Framework Coastal Management and Poverty Alleviation

Without a doubt, efforts to preserve the marine environment must include local communities to preserve the marine environment. By including people whose livelihoods are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture into recreational scuba diving, there will be greater benefits for the community and the environment. One of the pre-existing frameworks that ensure this mutual symbiosis is the integrated framework of coastal management.

Integrated framework coastal management is a tool that ensures a successful and profitable outcome for all parties involved in the use and conservation of marine resources. Through this model, locals integrate into the administration and the use of natural resources in several water-based industries. Supplemental payments and employment within other businesses create employment opportunities, should fish bans or similar legislative actions displace primary jobs. This has occurred in Northern Mozambique and Kenya.

Scuba Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Mozambique

Mozambique is a country with a history of the slave trade, colonization and 15 years of civil war. Nevertheless, it is a nation in the equatorial belt that has significant tourism potential. After the civil war, tourism was its quickest growing industry. Forty-five percent of the country’s population participates in the tourism industry.

Poverty is lowest in the province of Ponta do Ouro, located in the southern-most area of Mozambique. Ponta do Ouro is home to the greatest levels of marine tourism, where tourists and locals collaborate to participate in water-based activities such as scuba diving. The area particularly favors scuba diving due to the presence of bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. It also has year-round warm water and is home to humpback whales from August through November. As it holds pristine marine biodiversity, the area is a marine protected area (MPA).

Scuba activities in Ponta do Ouro mainly happen within scuba diving management areas that follow the diver code of conduct. Most diving in the area is done to maintain the biophysical environment through the monitoring and assessment of ecosystem health and management of marine pollution by maintaining low levels of plastic pollution that accumulates in the bays along the coastline.

Not only can scuba diving alleviate poverty through dive tourism, but MPAs have also been influential. For example, MPAs have helped promote and facilitate the involvement of Mozambicans to monitor their fisheries, map different user groups that can overlay with physical and biological data and conduct research. All of these actions help locals find employment and elevate their living standards.

In the future, a greater exploration of the Mozambican Indian Ocean should be explored and strategic planning to maintain the attractiveness of the area and avoid loss of biodiversity is imperative. This will open up greater possibilities for locals to set up dive sites and cultivate diving enterprises, conserve the biological species and obtain greater income.

SPACES, Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Kenya

The Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) Project is a collaborative initiative funded by the U.K. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) and SwedBio. The project aims to uncover the scientific knowledge on the complex relationship between ecosystem services, poverty and human wellbeing. The project studies sites in Mozambique and Kenya.

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) that the project uses determined that humans derive great benefits from ecosystems. People can apply these benefits to environmental conservation, human well-being and poverty alleviation. People can also use them to inform and develop interventions. If people implement the integrated framework coastal management, there is a large possibility for ecosystem services to inform the development of ES interventions that contribute to poverty alleviation through entrepreneurial activities. If locals cultivate diving enterprises, these communities would reap the benefits of the cash-based livelihood that many diving businesses currently possess.

Lobster Diving in Honduras

In Honduras, diving has been a primary livelihood. In the Central American country that shares its borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, lobster diving serves as a way of living, particularly in the indigenous community of Miskito. Mosquita is one of the most impoverished areas of Latin America.

Despite the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) setting safe standard diving techniques, one that calls for a gradual ascent to the surface and a limit to the number of dives a person can make in one day, the divers of Mosquita dive deeply, surface quickly and go back for more. They race to collect as much lobster as possible, fishing to take their families and themselves out of poverty. These conditions make them prone to nitrogen decompression sickness, a sickness that disabled over 1,200 Miskitos since 1980.

Nevertheless, a diver receives $3 for every pound of lobster they get and 28 cents for every sea cucumber. This is a significant amount of money for the area and for that reason, many take the risk. The boats where the divers spend their time between dives also only have rudimentary safety equipment, using aging tanks and masks. These divers need to do their jobs to raise themselves out of poverty. Until the government implements necessary training to divers, as well as health insurance provisions, divers will remain at risk. Lobster diving has great potential for promoting marine biodiversity, poverty alleviation and sustainable coastal development; however, health precautions must be a priority as well in order for lobster diving to be a truly sustainable solution.  

Looking Forward

Scuba diving can alleviate poverty with its safety practices and dedication for marine conservation, which opens up many opportunities for technological and economic advances through educational, conservation and entrepreneurship potential. Aside from igniting passion and dedication to fighting for the underwater environment, scuba diving urges divers to fight for their survival, their protection and their businesses as well. It is therefore understandable why many have come to value scuba diving as one of the most potent ways to educate society about environmental conservation, and with it, help increase living standards for coastal communities.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr


Sharks Can Reduce PovertySharks have become increasingly feared throughout the years. In 2017, more people were recorded being afraid of the animal than they were of death. Thanks to movies with ominous music preceding the creature’s appearance on screen, extensive media coverage of the few shark encounters, rather than the more extensive dog bites and lightning strikes, people are associating fear with sharks more and more. The marine animal is on more people’s minds now than gang violence, illegal immigration, or drought, but the truth is, sharks can reduce all of those things that attribute to human suffering. In fact, sharks can reduce poverty itself.

Essential Species

Sharks are considered a ‘keystone’ species among scientists meaning that they are essential in keeping their inhabited environments balanced and well. They keep the oceans and reefs from collapsing. Sharks keep the fish healthy by consuming the unhealthy and weak ones which allow evolution to strengthen fish. This not only maintains the populations and allows the plant life to thrive as a result of balanced amounts of feeding fish, but for the seafood that people in developing countries eat and sell to be of good quality. In short, saving the sharks save the oceans, and saving the oceans saves people relying on it for income and nutrition. In short, sharks can reduce poverty.

Many developing countries’ economies rely on the seas. Whether that be for their fishing markets, tourism due to beaches, or shark tourism itself (most sharks have been estimated to be worth over a million dollars for revenue over their lifetime), many poor communities depend on healthy oceans for sustainable human lives. Ocean conservation means prosperity, and one big way to do that is to save the sharks.

Sharks Need Protection

Currently, we are killing sharks faster than they can recover. Humans are poaching, accidentally killing them with other fishing gear, and getting them trapped in nets. Sharks have been around for 400 million years providing people with thriving oceans, and now 100 million are killed annually.

While it’s impressive that scientists are vocal about the climate, society needs to become educated about why sharks need protection. Reasons include:

  • sharks control and keep oceans thriving;
  • once you reduce the shark population, the ocean becomes less secure;
  • sharks maintain the oceanic ecosystem and contribute to healthy oceans which counteract climate change.

Even just in terms of tourism revenue, a study of Palau found that each shark was worth almost two million dollars. The Australian Institute of Marine Science found that diver tourism made up 39 percent of the Palau’s income, and 21 percent of those same divers toured exclusively to see  sharks. Struggling communities can not only sustain themselves with the help of sharks, but can thrive.

Again and again it has been proven that sharks can reduce poverty, and therefore, should be protected. Spreading awareness about the animal’s positive impact on poverty-stricken communities can help those struggling in developing nations, and in the process, save the seas. Sharks need to stay.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

Preservation of Ocean Water: An Unusual Way to Mitigate Poverty
Oceans all over the world represent an almost infinite reservoir of water — they have limitless potential in terms of offering a source of food and income through fishing, aquaculture, shipping and export.

Despite the incredible range of functions that oceans serve, they are constantly being threatened on a daily basis. This occurs through processes such as eutrophication which occur as a result of excessive fertilizer use.

In eutrophication, an algal bloom on water surfaces prevents adequate oxygen reaching marine life, consequently resulting in the death of aquatic organisms. Ocean water is also being contaminated on a daily basis by pollutants released into the water by sewage plants, factories and farms.

In developing countries, oceans can offer a source of employment not only for fishermen but also for professional boatmen and retailers who rely on sales of aquatic produce. It is estimated that approximately 3 billion people globally depend on oceans for their nutritional needs, including vital protein and minerals.

Marasmus and Kwashiorkor are two important protein deficiency conditions that prevail in developing countries. Inadequate protein intake in these conditions may be boosted by the protein sources harvested from oceans. Globally, 740 million people suffer from iodine deficiency, resulting in clinical implications such as goiter and brain damage. Iodine deficiencies may be corrected by iodine-fortified salt, which can be obtained by chemical crystallization and purification of ocean water.

Coastal regions have the added benefit of income acquired through tourism. It is also estimated that 90 percent of fishers come from developing countries alone, and hence oceans represent vast hubs of employment that require urgent conservation.

Preservation of ocean water may help in the reduction of hunger, especially in developing countries, which are greatly contingent upon this natural resource. Humanitarian organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, are increasing their collaboration with other countries to support strategies that ensure a sustainable supply of seafood, conservation of aquatic ecosystems and preservation of highly targeted areas such as coral reefs.

Oceans also have therapeutic value, as many medicines that can be used to treat a disease can be acquired from ocean water. These medicines include antibiotics, that can be used to supplement cure of bacterial infection in developing countries. Oceans also contain substances that can act as anti-inflammatory therapies to treat inflammatory pathologies such as asthma.

In recognition of the integral importance of oceans to stability and balance in the ecosystem, ocean conservation is currently one of the Sustainable Development Goals pursued by the United Nations. As ocean water constitutes approximately 97 percent of all water present on Earth, it is our responsibility to pay heed to judicious preservation of ocean water.

Tanvi Ambulkar

Photo: Flickr