Valuing the Ocean

To make connections and build relationships designed to help protect our oceans.

Why value the ocean?

The healthy functioning of the ocean through sustainable use and management of its resources is critical to life as we know it, but the pressure through climate change, pollution, over-fishing etc. are immense and growing. The facts are alarming. The Gulbenkian hypothesis is that developing skills to communicate the value of the ocean to people in new ways, whether that’s economic, cultural, aesthetic or intrinsic value, may help to create a culture in which that step change becomes possible.

Key themes we are exploring in this work include:

Blue growth and prosperity

We all benefit from a healthy and sustainably managed ocean. The ocean’s healthy functioning and resources are fundamental to life itself and support our health, wellbeing and prosperity. Healthy, sustainably managed seas support prosperous economies, businesses and coastal communities.

Promoting positive values

Promoting shared values and new narratives for marine conservation will create change. We value economic prosperity, but also a broad range of other things. We protect what we value. Uncovering and reflecting the multiple values of the ocean and humankind will lead to better and faster ocean conservation. Our FrameWorks commission delves into this topic in detail. 

Increasing the effectiveness of environmental NGOs

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation supports NGO sectors in Portugal and the UK, helping them to build capacity, skills and sustainability for long-term effectiveness.

Read Valuing the Ocean: Summarising Our Approach for an introduction to this strand of work. This publication was developed based on extensive scoping research including a report commissioned from Forum for the Future entitled: ‘A systems programme for leveraging change on marine issues’ (December 2013).

Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative (GOI)

Our Valuing the Ocean strand of work is part of the wider Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative (GOI) launched by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon in 2013.

The GOI is concerned with the economic valuation of marine ecosystem services and centres on a specific pilot study in Portugal. It will also facilitate a range of initiatives to increase public understanding and promote policy action in Portugal and beyond.

The GOI mission states that:

Our oceans need to be in better shape if they are to make enhanced and sustainable contributions to our wellbeing and economies, and for this we not only need to understand their real value, but to look at their protection and restoration not only as a cost but as an investment.

Valuing the Ocean: Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative from CGF UK on Vimeo.

Marine CoLABoration

A special contribution of the UK Branch is to host a marine ‘laboratory’ with a small number of NGOs keen to explore how we may better communicate the role of the ocean in human wellbeing and so increase the environmental sector’s capacity to influence how we share and manage the ocean’s resources in the best interests of society for the long term.

In 2014 we selected nine organisations to form the lab and we have hosted a series of workshops in 2015 and 2016.

Learn more about the Marine CoLABoration’s activities.

Supported projects

We are already supporting some strategic partnerships and projects which show significant potential to increase the capacity of the sector to collaborate and/or communicate the value of the ocean in human wellbeing. These will help to inform our thinking as the Marine CoLABoration gets underway.

Community Voice Method

We will work with the Marine Conservation Society to adapt and trial the ‘Community Voice Method’ in the UK in order to secure effective stakeholder engagement in decision-making on management of our marine spaces.

Fisheries Employment Model

We are helping the New Economics Foundation in driving change towards fairer and more sustainable management of marine resources and strengthening the work of the marine conservation sector through the generation of new evidence, the reframing of conservation issues, and the provision of socio-economic training and tools.

North Sea Marine Cluster

Research into business solutions for the management of marine protected areas.

The Future of the Ocean Economy

Supporting the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to conduct a global forward-looking assessment of the ocean economy to 2030 and beyond, with particular emphasis on the development potential of emerging ocean-based industries.



Updated on 26 September 2017