Main Issue

The oceans provide the world with a wealth of resources and services on which we depend: food, clean air, a stable climate, transport and energy, recreation, and livelihoods. Yet human activities on land and in the ocean are causing rapid deterioration of these valuable marine and coastal ecosystems. Habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, overfishing, pollution, climate change, and ocean acidification are causing unprecedented degradation. These declines are driven by rising demand for resources, technological advances, lack of viable alternative livelihoods, overcapacity, and weak governance.

Well-functioning, transboundary, ocean governance schemes are crucial to achieve long-term sustainable use of our ocean resources. These approaches need to ensure cooperation at global to local scales, across sectors from fisheries to tourism to transportation and among government, academia, non-profit and business sectors.

What We Do

The GEF works with partners to improve ocean governance with and across nations. Through such transboundary partnerships, we help countries develop regional institutional frameworks. These policy frameworks, in turn, enable countries to implement ecosystem-based approaches to manage fisheries and other marine and coastal resources. At the same time, these approaches can protect coastal habitats, including blue forests, from land-based sources of pollution. Ensuring the sustainability of our oceans requires working across national jurisdictions and the high seas.

The GEF’s marine projects have addressed the breadth of threats and issues facing ocean governance, including fisheries and pollution. Projects, for example, have targeted reduction of toxic substances as identified by international agreements such as the Stockholm Convention. The GEF also supports effective sustainable management of large marine ecosystems. Further, the GEF has funded marine protected areas across the world that are more than twice the size of Alaska. These areas address local and national priorities by sustaining ecosystems that provide essential services, such as food, climate change resilience, and storm protection.

Through these investments, the GEF is catalyzing development of the blue economy regionally as well as nationally. This can prevent and mitigate the ecological damage from economic activities through effective and appropriate management frameworks and strategies.


Since its inception, the GEF’s investments in the International Waters focal area have surpassed $1.15 billion. These funds have leveraged another $7.7 billion from partners for marine-related projects and programs. This massive investment has led to the delivery of an impressive set of global marine environmental benefits, including the creation of 4.1 million km2 of marine protected areas.

Since 1994, the International Waters focal area has provided close to $50 million in targeted finance towards more effective management approaches and strategies within the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) framework. PEMSEA provides a solid foundation for regional cooperation, bringing together the different countries to establish interagency, multi-sectoral, and intergovernmental partnerships for sustainable development. In addition, with support from PEMSEA, Integrated Coastal Zone management (ICM) areas have now been designated across 12 percent of the region’s coastline. The goal is to reach 25 percent by 2021.