What are Seascapes?


Seascapes are strategy for large-scale marine protection and management pioneered by Conservation International.

Costa Rica, as all countries who enjoy having a coastline, owns sovereignty over its waters (its Exclusive Economic Zone, or EZZ) and so, we get to determine how we manage our marine and coastal resources. But fish and whales don’t respect national boundaries. That makes effective management and preservation a challenge: different countries with different takes and ideas, but connected to the same area of sea.

The Seascape approach brings together interested groups with a common goal: to protect vital areas of the sea. These coalitions include governments, communities, private sector and often CI.

Conservation works best when it is at scale — taking into account an entire area rather than dividing it up, especially when that area has fluid boundaries. Seascapes are designed to be large enough to encompass different levels of government from the local to the national, but not too large to manage effectively. Having local support along with the reach and impact of government increases the likelihood of conservation success.

Seascapes protect the region's natural, economic and cultural resources.

Seascapes protect the region’s natural, economic and cultural resources.

How does it work?

Seascapes use sustainable practices — both the modern and the traditional — as key for integrating management perspectives and designing solutions to challenges. This allows governments, communities and local organizations to see the big picture and follow a sustainable development path. They become proactive, as opposed to reactive.

Thinking of a seascape as a whole, with its own name and resources and needs, fosters the kind of cooperation that is necessary for its protection and sustainable management. Conservation International strives to bring together the best science with policies in a spirit of collaboration. For local champions and governments share knowledge and communicate effectively. With this information, communities, institutions and local governments are empowered to work together — and value their priceless marine resources.

What are we doing?

Conservation International is working to build coalitions among governments, communities and the private sector to improve ocean management at scale. The Seascape approach is under continual development, drawing on the collective practical experience and expertise of the many people and groups that have been a part of the program’s development since 2004.

Working with local partners in eight countries, CI has been instrumental in improving management in four seascapes: Abrolhos Seascape in Brazil; Bird’s Head Seascape in Indonesia; Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador; and Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Yes but… why?

Everything we do and give to the ocean ultimately comes back to us. Our sea’s states effectively determines our wellbeing. If we take care of the oceans, the planet will take care of us.

CI’s goal with the seascapes model is to tangibly improve human well-being as well as the ecosystem. We focus on both the ecological and the socioeconomic factors. Working with coalitions of partners means more available resources, smart and effective teams built of complementary strengths and institutions that can stand the test of time.

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