Save Our Seas: Grants for Marine and River Conservation

OVERVIEW: Save Our Seas Foundation is a Geneva-based nonprofit organization that supports a number of research, education, and conservation projects to protect ocean diversity, in particular work to restore sharks, rays, and skates. It operates as a “pass-through” foundation--meaning while its core operations are covered by a private fund, projects that it supports are backed by incoming public contributions.

IP TAKE: Organizations working with top marine predators would be well advised to get to know Save Our Seas. Not only does it have a grantmaking program; it’s highly active and public in the field in its own right, through an array of programs dedicated to public awareness and media work. It accepts unsolicited proposals, but note that all grantees must participate in public awareness and education campaigns as a condition to receiving funding.

PROFILE:  A good way to think of Save Our Seas Foundation is as a sort of a conduit and promoter for conservation work on sharks, rays, and other well-known and loved oceangoing species. It’s a Switzerland-based nonprofit with offices in South Africa, the United States, and the Seychelles. The organization has its own programs, but also makes grants to groups worldwide. Its portfolio now boasts around 150 projects in 42 countries.

Founded in 2003, the organization is not a research center itself, but it has its own programs, four offices, two “Shark Centres,” and partners with and sponsors projects around the world. The core operations also include advisors and “ambassadors” trumpeting the cause, plus panels of experts on science and public relations. A lot of that involves media work and promotion to the public.

The foundation has three main categories of grants. Emergency Grants are set aside for projects that need urgent or immediate assistance. The Small Grant Fund goes out to one-year projects and awards less than $5,000 per project, on average—they’re typically given to startup endeavors by young scientists, conservationists, and educators. And the Keystone Fund is on a biennial grant cycle, with larger, ongoing projects in mind. It also awards photography grants and Keystone Special Project grants. Applicants are invited to submit online application forms.

Save Our Seas funds projects doing three types of work: research, conservation or education. It hones in on efforts to protect the “charismatic megafauna”—large species that have popular appeal, such as sharks and whales—and their habitats. The objective, according to its website, is to find projects that can draw widespread public attention and thereby create mass momentum for change.

Major marine predators hold special importance to Save Our Seas. The foundation’s media outreach prominently publicizes the observed declines in sharks, rays, and skate’s populations, and the harmful effect that their disappearance has on the greater ecosystems. To help stem the population declines, the foundation funds such projects as tagging and monitoring threatened shark populations. It also supports work to directly protect species, such as the sawfish in West Africa, by way of an alert team that watches for by-catches and sales.

Protection for the herbivores is also in the foundation’s repertoire. It sponsors sea turtle conservation in Kenya, for example, plus some Florida research projects to electronically tag and track young sea turtles as they leave their nests. Other Save Our Seas-supported projects focus on corals, crustaceans, and the manatees of western Africa.

Education is a big part of Save Our Seas’ mission, as well. The organization strives to educate the public about the aquatic ecosystems that need protecting through a network of marine centers, along with periodic events to spread the word about specific threatened species, like the “Spot a Ray” program at a World Ocean Day event at Mote Marine Lab. Education and public affairs are so important to the foundation, in fact, that grantees are required to integrate awareness into their projects, and to work with Save Our Seas to promote their work.

PEOPLE:

  • Michael Scholl, Chief Executive Officer

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