Rare at Our Ocean 2019

Behavior Change for Nature
5 min readOct 31, 2019


Last week, Norway hosted the 6th Annual Our Ocean Conference. Since its inception, Our Ocean has helped put our oceans’ health at the top of national and international political agendas. The conference brings together heads of state, ministers, philanthropy, NGOs, corporations, scientists and other experts to commit to taking actions that protect and revitalize our oceans.

Country leaders pose on stage during Our Ocean 2019 in Oslo, Norway.

As a country with a vested interested in cultivating the blue economy, Norway demonstrated its perspective on the Our Ocean agenda through the lens of “sustainable use of the ocean.” Delegates and civil society focused significant amounts of dialogue around cultivating the blue economy and the role conservation must play to achieve that vision.

Rare has regularly and actively participated in Our Ocean over the years, highlighting the work and progress made by our Fish Forever program. Our goal: ensure that coastal communities and small-scale fishers are part of the oceans agenda. Here are some takeaways from the week in Oslo.


Setting the stage

During their opening remarks, our Norwegian hosts made an urgent connection between sustainable ocean management with people’s well-being around the world. In her keynote address, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg remarked that oceans hold the key to many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): ending poverty, ending hunger, ensuring good health and well-being. Achieving them “is possible if we recognize the connection between ocean health and ocean wealth.”

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg

Importantly, small-scale fisheries were well represented in the plenary discussion on ‘Food and livelihoods from the ocean’ by Sebastian Matthews, Executive Director of International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF). Mr. Matthews discussed how implementing the 2014 FAO-SSF Guidelines can be done at national and local levels within a human rights-based approach towards improving governance and conservation and sustainable use of marine, coastal and inland fishery resources.

Rare recognition

Attendees of the main plenary sessions had the chance to learn about Rare’s work. In addressing the conference, Bloomberg Philanthropies CEO Patti Harris addressed the fact that despite covering 71 percent of the world, the ocean receives less than 1 percent of philanthropic funding. Bloomberg has been trying to change that through the Vibrant Oceans Initiative, of which Rare is a partner. Harris mentioned Rare’s role, through Fish Forever, in protecting our oceans, their critical ecosystems, like coral reefs, and the coastal fisheries on which millions of people depend for food and jobs.

While addressing the Our Ocean Conference, Bloomberg Philanthropies CEO Patti Harris touted the Vibrant Oceans Initiative and Rare’s Fish Forever work.

Rare’s past commitments made during Our Ocean were part of a short film screened in front of the conference ahead of the session on food and livelihoods from the ocean. The film quoted Anna-Marie Laura, Rare’s Director of Policy Engagement. Watch the film here.

And read the Our Ocean Conference blogs on our past commitments — establishing the Meloy Fund, an impact investment fund, and the announcement of a collaboration to launch savings clubs in the Philippines — both announced at Our Ocean 2016.

Elevating local leaders
On Day One of the conference, Rare partnered with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the European Commission, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and OECD to co-host a side event highlighting the important role small-scale fishers and fish farmers play in an inclusive Blue Economy. Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry — who started the Our Ocean Conference in 2014 — moderated the event.

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left), who started the Our Ocean Conference, shakes hands with Rare’s Dr. Steve Box during the event.

In opening remarks, Steve Box presented on Rare’s work to build networks of local leaders committed to prioritizing small-scale fisheries and ending overfishing in their local waters. Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, Vice President of Global Ocean Initiatives at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, presented on the Aquarium’s partnership assurance model for sustainable aquaculture.

Secretary Kerry then moderated a panel discussion of representatives from Mozambique, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the European Commission. Mr. Tomé Dambuza, a District Administrator from Machangula, Mozambique, was one of the first local leaders in Mozambique to take the Local Leaders Pledge and joined the high-level panel. Mr. Dambuza offered a local perspective to the challenge of overfishing: “Fish resources are scarce. That’s why I accepted the challenge from Rare to change community behavior so that fishing can be done in a sustainable way.

Tomé Dambuza, a District Administrator from Machangula, Mozambique, advocates for small-scale fishers during a panel conversation with representatives from Vietnam, the Philippines and the European Commission.

Kerry closed the event by calling for “a balance between economic growth, development, and mega-profits on one hand, with environmental standards, sustainability, decent living standards, and sharing with the people doing hard labor at the lower end of the supply chain. Unless we bring all these things together, we are going to have a very difficult time building the broad embrace of these efforts that it’s going to take to win it.”

Breakfast of champions

Rare kicked off Day 2 of the conference by hosting a breakfast with delegation members from Indonesia, Mozambique, the Philippines, and Palau, all Fish Forever countries, to exchange ideas for empowering local communities to sustainably manage their fisheries.

Delegates from Indonesia (left) listen as Adolf Demei (right) of the Palau Conservation Society shares about efforts to support small-scale fishers.

During the breakfast, the delegates shared what they had in common, such as challenges like decreasing fisheries for local communities or solutions like providing scholarships to fishers’ children

Adolf Demei, a board member of the Palau Conservation Society, talked about the “Palau Pledge,” an initiative to incentivize visitors to commit to taking care of the environment while in Palau. Delegates from Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries discussed ideas for building financial inclusion for fishers through special interest rates. Representatives from the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources from the Philippines shared about their country’s initiative to encourage sustainable fisheries management through a national contest. They also shared approaches they had in common such as scholarships for fishers’ children.

Remia Aparri, a Regional Director with the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources discusses Filipino initiatives to support small-scale fishers.




Behavior Change for Nature

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