Aquarium affirms commitment to sustainable and equitable ocean economy at international gathering

Our Ocean Conference held in Athens, Greece this week

Our Ocean Conference 2024
Our Ocean Conference 2024 The New England Aquarium delegation—Sarah Reiter, Letise LaFeir, and Vikki N. Spruill—at the Our Ocean Conference. PHOTO COURTESY NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM

ATHENS, GREECE (April 19, 2024) – At an international conference focused on ocean conservation, the New England Aquarium submitted a commitment to helping develop a sustainable and equitable ocean economy in Boston and beyond.

A delegation from the Aquarium attended the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Athens, Greece, this week, which brings together governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, and nonprofits that share a common vision for protecting the ocean.

Created by John Kerry while U.S. Secretary of State, the conference distinguishes itself from others with declarations of actions or “commitments” from participating groups. These commitments must be voluntary, significant, and measurable with a clear timeframe, and they must be accepted by the conference. The Aquarium’s commitment is inspired by its location in a region of the ocean with rapidly changing environmental conditions and emerging industries, as the Gulf of Maine warms and the presence of industries such as offshore wind and aquaculture get underway.

“Sharing capacity and exchanging knowledge about how to protect the ocean in an inclusive and equitable way has been and will continue to be part of the New England Aquarium’s mission,” said Vikki N. Spruill, president and CEO of the New England Aquarium. “We look forward to continuing to work alongside local conservation leaders to help ensure local knowledge and action is respected, elevated, and applied, in our own region and beyond, as it relates to the development of the sustainable ocean economy.”

In making this commitment, the Aquarium was inspired by its Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF), which funds and supports local conservation leaders around the globe—particularly in low and middle-income or “majority” countries—whose work demonstrates the need to center a sustainable ocean economy at the local level. These local conservation leaders serve as stewards for their own communities and advance best practices for equity and effective conservation.

To fulfill this commitment over the next two years and elevate the need for a sustainable ocean economy that is both responsible and equitable, the Aquarium will focus on serving as a convenor, host, and/or contributor to knowledge exchanges; advising on, influencing, and adopting values that center on the work of local conservation leaders; and modeling and advocating for equitable approaches to the representation and recognition of local conservationists in the media.

The Our Ocean Conference, held April 16 and 17, focused on six areas of action: marine protected areas, sustainable blue economies, climate change, maritime security, sustainable fisheries, and marine pollution.

The Aquarium delegation was led by President and CEO Vikki N. Spruill, who was joined by Chief of Conservation and Stewardship Dr. Letise LaFeir and Associate Vice President of Conservation Practice Sarah Reiter. As part of the Aquarium’s engagement at the conference, Dr. LaFeir spoke on a panel hosted by the Aquarium Conservation Partnership exploring the increasing conservation impact of collective efforts by public aquariums.


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