Environmental Conservation: Marine Conservation Initiative

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

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Grant amount: Up to US $2,500,000

Deadline: Rolling

Applicant type: Organizations

Funding uses: Research, General Operating Expense, Project / Program

Location of project: Canada, Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington

Location of residency: Anywhere in the world

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About this funder:



NOTE: Please note that we do not accept unsolicited grant proposals. Because of our tightly-defined grantmaking strategies, many worthwhile projects fall outside the scope of our funding priorities. However, if you have thoughts or inquiries related to our work that you would like to share, you may send us a brief, ~100-word email. Please understand that due to the volume of inquiries we receive, we are only able to commit to reviewing those inquiries that adhere to the ~100-word guideline.

Marine Conservation Initiative

We support healthy and resilient ocean ecosystems that will sustain future generations.

The ocean is a mysterious, productive frontier. For millennia, it has sustained us with food, economic opportunities and recreation. Our experience gives us a connection to the sea’s remarkable web of life, and a profound sense of its power and beauty.

We celebrate these diverse gifts, and also recognize that our marine health is declining – along with its ability to produce food, protect against storms, buffer our changing climate and provide so many other services critical to humans and other species who depend on our shared ocean.

That’s why we are working to achieve healthy and resilient marine ecosystems in the United States and Canada. To that end, through 2024, we are focusing on three of the regions with the greatest ecological value, combined with significant, near-term windows of opportunity for conservation. Our three geographies of focus are:

  • The North American Arctic: exceptionally productive and biologically diverse, but also warming at roughly twice the global average rate. Shrinking ice extent and thinner sea ice not only change ecosystem dynamics, but are also opening more of the Arctic to outsized environmental risks from a handful of potentially harmful industrial activities.
  • British Columbia: home to some of the most productive and relatively healthy, intact ocean ecosystems globally—from coastal estuaries and fjords to deep-water corals and glass sponge reefs. Yet high-impact ocean uses, like marine transportation, threaten to disrupt the connections between ecological and socioeconomic systems that otherwise strengthen and tie communities and ecosystems together.
  • The U.S. West Coast: hosting a vast array of species and ecosystems of high value, supported by a rich current-driven nutrient upwelling. Even with the potential for destructive siting of offshore development and other significant threats to marine life and habitat, key regional opportunities have emerged to safeguard important areas and implement ecosystem-based management.

Beyond these three marine ecosystems, we are also supporting efforts to foster wider engagement, lessons and conditions conducive to long-term, broader scale impacts.

Healthy and resilient marine ecosystems in the U.S. and Canada

In many geographies, our marine health is in decline. In North America’s Arctic Ocean, we are witnessing intense, climate-related disruption and recognize an urgent need to limit the number and severity of other human-caused ecosystem impacts—and similar impacts are being felt in the still thriving but increasingly threatened marine ecosystems of British Columbia and the U.S. West Coast. Across these geographies, threats to ecosystems range from marine transportation to offshore industrial facilities to overfishing. And lining these coasts are communities – from remote villages to cities the size of Seattle – in which the fabric of life is often tied to marine health. 

Yet in all three of these places, we see moments of opportunity for significant conservation. Specifically, the Marine Conservation Initiative is supporting those who are working toward:

  • Conservation and sustainable management in high priority geographies. Protecting ecologically important features, managing the range of human uses in those places and establishing frameworks for enduring health of the marine ecosystems of the North American Arctic, British Columbia and the U.S. West Coast;
  • Establishing key enabling conditions. Ensuring lasting conservation and community gains from New England and West Coast fisheries management reforms and East Coast ocean planning efforts to date; scaling engagement, lessons and conditions nationally in the U.S. and Canada.

 High-priority conservation targets

In our work in the North American Arctic, British Columbia and the U.S. West Coast, we are working to protect ecologically important features, manage the range of human uses in those places and establish frameworks for the enduring health of marine ecosystems. Supporting activities in these regions include science synthesis, data integration and modernization, economic incentives for sustainable activities, technological solutions for transparency and accountability, community-based monitoring of ecosystem health, stakeholder engagement and constituency building, leadership and capacity development, sustainable financing mechanisms and strategic communications.

Establishing key enabling conditions

For the first phase of the initiative’s work (2004-2017), the bulk of our marine conservation funding focused on overfishing and habitat degradation as two of the largest, yet most solvable, threats to the oceans. Our grantees’ many achievements include the improvement of fisheries management systems in the U.S. and recovery of key commercial fisheries, support for the development of regional ocean plans on the East Coast of the U.S., and marine plans collaboratively developed and signed by 17 coastal First Nations and the province of British Columbia for the North Pacific Coast. Through 2020, we are supporting continued work on the fisheries management reform and ocean planning that underpin this work, to ensure that these conservation gains endure.

At the same time, engagement and wider scaling of approaches are critical in both the U.S. and Canada. To this end, we will continue to support key activities relevant to our geographies though grantees’ national-level work.

Aspirational outcome: healthy, resilient North American marine ecosystems that support sustainable use

Through 2024, we will focus on these globally significant places for conservation, addressing the threats they face through strategies that mitigate outsized drivers of degradation and secure habitat and conservation objectives.

Our geographical and ecological-bounded approach, combined and reinforced with work to establish conditions favorable to long-term and wide-scale conservation gains, aims, ultimately, to safeguard the healthy, resilient and magnificent marine ecosystems of the U.S. and Canada. 

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Our indirect cost policy provides that the indirect cost rate may not exceed 12.5 percent of the direct costs of the project.
  • Direct costs may include:
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