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2023 at Sustainable Ocean Alliance: A Year in Review

   

SOA Blog

Sustainable Ocean Alliance is accelerating ocean solutions around the world. Here are their stories.

It's encouraging when it feels like every year is our biggest, most impactful year yet. This year at Sustainable Ocean Alliance is no exception.

In 2023, we focused on refining our programs, and ramping up support to our core communities. We launched the Ecopreneur Network, the evolution of our flagship Ocean Solutions Accelerator program. We kicked off a new funding stream to send more youth than ever to raise their voices at key policy fora around the world. And we provided more direct financial support to ocean solutions this year than in any other year in Sustainable Ocean Alliance history. 

As we close our year out, we're looking back to feel energized about what lies ahead. We hope these highlights fill you with the same hope and inspiration that we feel! 

The Ecopreneur Network

Designed to respond to the unique needs of our startups, the Ecopreneur Network provides lifetime support to ocean technology startups. Through access to funding opportunities, mentorship, peer learning, and skill-building, the Ecopreneur Network is a unique community for ocean innovators looking for structured, ongoing collaboration. 

In September, we announced our inaugural Ecopreneur Network Class of 2023! This group of inspiring ecopreneurs focuses on everything from seaweed-derived biomaterials, to electric outboard motors, to ocean agriculture. 

This year, SOA's investment program mobilized a record $1.3M—the most we've ever directed toward our ecopreneurs in the space of one year.

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Above, a photo from uWare Robotics, one of our newest Ecopreneur Network members. 

Events & Activations

SOA hosted the Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit prior to the official Our Ocean Conference in Panama. Of over 1,000 applications, 77 youth were ultimately chosen to attend. During the forum, these young leaders worked closely with expert mentors and speakers to devise solutions around 6 impact areas of action:

1. Climate change
2. Marine pollution
3. Maritime security
4. Marine protected areas (MPAs)
5. Sustainable blue economy
6. Sustainable fisheries

When they weren't busy coming up with groundbreaking ocean solutions, participants enjoyed visits to local coral reef restoration organization Reef2Reef Foundation, and visited a local sea cucumber hatchery and algae research lab, PanaSea. 

READ MORE | The full Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit Recap

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In addition to the Summit, SOA hosted an event for Ecopreneurs during NYC Climate Week in September. After a panel discussion on blue entrepreneurship at the Javits Center, attendees hopped aboard a boat on the Hudson River, and cruised around the Statue of Liberty as the sun set. Together, they learned about new ocean innovations, and made critical connections with mentors, investors, and other founders. 

We also sent a youth delegation to IMPAC5, the International Marine Protected Areas conference. Read our delegates' reflections on a meaningful event—and an in-person action in Vancouver—here!

Policy Wins

Discussions wore on this year regarding the future of deep seabed mining with the International Seabed Authority (ISA)—and we were always there to bring critical youth voices to the table. SOA reached an important milestone this year in achieving Official Observer Status at the ISA meetings, which facilitates simpler processes for attendance and hosting interventions. 

READ MORE | A year of Advocating for a Moratorium on Deep Seabed Mining

DSM Moratorium Country Tracker

Right after the last ISA meeting of the year wrapped up, we sent a team of 14 youth to COP28 to participate in another round of historic climate negotiations. Watch their live recap here.

Partners and Mentors

Ever-growing, our cherished community of mentors has now grown to 314 ocean experts! We had 62 new folks join us this year—that's more than one each week, and we're thrilled. Our 12 new organizations joined SOA’s Global Ocean Partners Network, bringing us to almost 50 members.

Grants

In collaboration with one of our long-standing partners, Environmental Defense Fund, we welcomed another cohort of Leadership for Climate-Resilient Fisheries Fellows this year. 19 fellows joined us from 11 countries to hone their inspiring fisheries projects.

Overall, we awarded $565,539 to 91 grant projects this past year, in 42 countries. This represents the highest amount of funding and average grant size since SOA began awarding grants in 2020. 61% of these grants were awarded to projects in developing countries, and 7.5% Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Read more about our grants program, and watch featured project videos here.

Youth Leadership

Beyond their incredible work at the ISA meetings and the Our Ocean Leadership Summit, this year also saw more than $70,000 invested into our Hubs. This funding supported ocean activations, event production, and much more. We're so proud of our Hubs' dedication to spreading the ocean restoration message, and building out an inspired network of youth leaders around the world.

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Thank you to our entire global community of partners, mentors, leaders, founders, and supporters! This year represents such a diversity of wins, across entrepreneurship, grassroots action, and policy. We can't wait to see what 2024 has in store. 

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