We inspired the whole conservation world to agree on some really important actions

I am truly thrilled that more than 1400 conservation agencies and organizations have just adopted new policies that had their genesis with our Project Seahorse team. This huge alliance is really going to move us forward – on fisheries, bycatch, ecosystem restoration and on conserving seahorses and their relatives.

It’s a bit tricky to explain so stick with me because this matters. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature – IUCN for short – is an alliance of government agencies (around 225 of them), non-governmental organizations (1100 or so) and Indigenous Peoples’ groups (100 of them). Most conservation groups whose names you know belong to this Union, from little to large.

Every four years the IUCN Member organizations make decisions on policy, called Resolutions, that guide this huge array of influential groups. These decisions often end up being immensely influential… locally, nationally or globally. You can read up on them here. Some Resolutions identify emerging issues in conservation and some mobilise specific conservation actions. Historically they have addressed concerns relating to particular species, protected areas, forests, oceans, water, climate change, the private sector, and much more.

About 200 of the past IUCN Resolutions have focused on the marine environment, and many of them have been very influential. They cover deep sea mining to marine debris and saving coral reefs to supporting numerous ocean species. IUCN Resolutions have led to important and critical global and international decisions, as these two examples show. In 1972, an IUCN Resolution on the need for improvements in fisheries management prompted the ecosystem approach to fisheries that was adopted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1992. In 2008, an IUCN Resolution on advancing marine protected areas and networks helped create a global United Nations agreement to protect 10% of the ocean by 2020 (under Aichi Target 11), a Target that has largely been met.

So, now to the new Resolutions on the marine environment, that were announced in November 2020. It all started in July 2019, when I began mustering interest for a series of new marine Motions (as they are called before they are adopted). In my role as Chair of the Marine Conservation Committee for IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC), I was delighted that our group generated the idea for IUCN Resolutions on fisheries, bycatch and marine ecosystem restoration. As Chair of the IUCN SSC expert group on seahorses, pipefishes and seadragons (SPS SG), I was so pleased that we seized this opportunity to propose global action for these splendid animals.

It was a long and very complicated process to advance from ideas to proposals, involving many collaborators, extensive online forms and four months of formal consultation with IUCN Members. I facilitated the online discussion about the substantial proposal on fishing, and found it rich and respectful. Explorations of other proposed Resolutions were equally useful and effective. Once the three rounds (!) of formal discussion closed, proposals that seem to have broad support were put to an electronic vote among the IUCN Member organizations.

Fifteen months after we crafted our proposals, I was elated to see this policy process come to fruition. With near unanimity, IUCN Members enthusiastically agreed to take action and prompt action on four key Resolutions that I drafted with colleagues from the MCC and the SPS SG. Each Resolution leads with a preamble that sets the background and then has a number of calls to action, directed at different parts of the Union and its allies. You can find them all here, along with the more controversial proposals that will need in-person voting in 2022.

Our exciting new Resolutions include:

All of these will play an important role in securing the success of our favourite Resolution…

We really want to thank and applaud the many IUCN Member organizations who co-sponsored these Resolutions through the formal process.

It is a very big deal to have won such strong support from conservation powerhouses around the world. Now we need to make sure that these Resolutions come alive and achieve their full potential. That is where you come in. Please have a really good look at what the Resolutions say, tell everybody about these promises, and insist they be kept. With enough determination, these Resolutions will be important catalysts for new success stories in marine conservation, ones to delight us all.


Amanda Vincent, Director of Project Seahorse