Sustainable Oceans Lab

Fostering multi-stakeholder initiatives on ocean governance

Oceans cover 71% of our planet's surface. They are our natural life-support system, critical for global food security, and the well-being of humankind today and in the future.

The present degradation of the marine environment and loss of ocean biodiversity is threatening our climate and jeopardising the role of the oceans in our ecosystem.

The Sustainable Oceans Lab represents a new approach to the challenge of ensuring our marine ecosystems are sustainable.

Dates and Locations

“The Lab has opened my eyes to take a different approach, doing things differently, and I will be thinking about all the diversity that we brought to the table with the Sustainable Oceans Lab. Without that I would not have my eyes open as much as they are. Right now I feel like I‘m a born-again in a way, I have new ideas, new thoughts.”

Billy Causey, Southeast Regional Director of NOAA’s National Office for Marine Sanctuaries, USA



Participants came from government, business and civil society (43 % women, 57 % men). They were representatives of individual organizations (e.g. World Ocean Council, Shell, UNEP, Future of Fish) as well as teams from initiatives who have successfully catalyzed cross sectoral strategies in their own geographies like the Benguela Current Commission, the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Protected Area Network (F-LMMA), The Kanan Kay Alliance, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) and the Sargasso Sea Commission.



Bermuda, Côte d'Ivoire, Fiji, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States

The process

The year-long Leadership and Innovation Lab provided a space for exploring new perspectives and co-creating new approaches to multistakeholder engagement in the governance of ocean spaces. To learn from local contexts, the Lab conducted learning journeys on marine biodiversity on Vilm Island (Germany), fishing cooperatives in Punta Allen (Mexico), and marine protected areas on Robben Island (South Africa).

The Lab offered an approach of disciplined experimentation to innovate across stakeholder groups. Working in teams, participants steadily shaped change interventions that they committed to pursue during the Lab. Each participant and initiative decided what the most pressing issues are for them and worked towards a respective outcome.

Through this process the Lab delivered on three objectives:

  • to develop capacity to effectively lead complex change initiatives and bring diverse interests of the oceans system into dialogue
  • to critically examine existing strategies and initiatives, seeking to build on and improve them
  • to develop new solutions to collaboratively address oceans management.

Many insights from the Lab culminated in a public event on Integrated Oceans Management (IOM) in Cape Town, bringing together around 100 people from Southern Africa.


Voices from the Sustainable Oceans Lab

Prototypes developed in the Sustainable Oceans Lab

The Kadavu prototype

The group prototyped approaches to community resilience in island communities. In this regard, the prototyping team has focused on Kadavu in Fiji which includes about 70 villages, and narrowed the focus down to two priorities: Sustainable livelihoods and renewable energy.

The Sargasso Sea and Fiji Prototype

The prototype of this group was to develop a process to involve industries in the assessment of industry impacts in ecologically sensitive marine areas and in respective mitigation measures to limit the negative impact.

The Kanan Kay Alliance and Future of Fish Prototype

Kanan Kay Alliance and Future of Fish are working together to address the challenge of how to strengthen and model multi-stakeholder initiatives around complex small-scale fisheries management. The prototype is looking at whether the Kanan Kay Alliance could be a model for other multistakeholder alliances looking at community based oceans management and how lessons learnt might apply to other initiatives.

The Integrated Oceans Management (IOM) practitioners group

The focus of this prototype was to set up an IOM Practitioner group with the aim to support development and implementation of national IOM in international and regional contexts. A first output of this practitioners group was a discussion paper on the challenges of multi-stakeholder engagement in IOM.

“I’m personally really grateful to be part of this initiative. I think the Sustainable Oceans Lab convenes an amazing, extremely diverse group of people from all over the world and it is been an opportunity to really sit back and reflect on your voice and your purpose, the purpose that brings us here, brings me here, but also to learn to listen to others perspectives and take that home as a practice that is the basis for multistakeholder engagement.”

Mariana Vélez – Alliances Coordinator Yucatan Peninsula, The Nature Conservancy, Mexico

Our Convening Partner

Facilitation Partner