Ocean Media Initiative

The ocean is one of the most dynamic and at the same time most under-reported food systems on the planet. About a billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein and, collectively, the nations of the world catch around 90 million metric tons of wild fish and shellfish from the oceans annually.  This is equivalent to the weight of the human population of China removed from the sea each and every year.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) produces a highly useful report every two years called The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (abbreviated as SOFIA) that identifies trends in the seafood industry. The latest release revealed that for the first time in 2014, aquaculture began to supply more fish for human consumption than wild-caught stock. 

The ocean is also chemically changing in dramatic ways in response to human influences on the environment. Sea water is becoming progressively more acidic due to the influence of industrially generated carbon in the atmosphere.  The ocean today is also subject to severe influxes of nitrogen- and phosphorous-based nutrients that industrial agriculture and wastewater treatment facilities are introducing into the marine environment. The resulting oxygen-depleting algal blooms that come about because of all these added nutrients (a phenomenon called "eutrophication") has resulted in more than 400 large "dead zones" around the world – areas where water is so oxygen-poor that fisheries are threatened.  In all, some 245,000 square kilometers of ocean are affected with some of the largest hypoxic areas being in the East China Sea offshore from the Yangtze River, on the US side of the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and in the Baltic Sea off Scandinavia and Russia.  

There are many dangers confronting the ocean at the dawn of the 21st century. Beyond the problems mentioned above, other issues like plastic debris, toxic algal blooms, acoustic pollution, and many others – are becoming more severe with the passage of time. With increasing pressures on the Earth's oceans, EJN's Ocean Media Initiative has undertaken activities around the globe to bolster the capacity of journalists and media organizations to report on these critical issues:

  • In Indonesia, EJN helped to launch the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) and then supported it to run a series of successful projects that increased the quantity and quality of environmental coverage in this crucial country. To date, these activities have resulted in: the training and capacity-building for over 462 journalists on oceans and fisheries issues; the production of at least 347 stories; an expansion of SIEJ membership to over 400 individual journalists; and the establishment of Ekuatorial (currently being re-launched), a data journalism and news mapping platform. 
  • EJN has been working with journalists in China since 2006 on a suite of issues, including the sustainability issue around fisheries. In 2012, EJN brought eight Chinese journalists to the Seafood Summit in Hong Kong, where they received training from journalists and seafood experts, embarked on an intensive three-day field trip in southern China, and filed stories to their home media organizations. EJN also commissioned a coverage of fisheries issues, carried out by researchers at Hong Kong University, who analyzed Chinese publications and carried out in-depth interviews with Chinese media leaders to identify those ocean-related topics that drew the most coverage, gaps and flaws in coverage, and the differences in positive and negative coverage between the aforementioned journalists at the Seafood Summit, among other results. EJN also organized a three-day forum that brought together six journalists and six researchers to learn about the demands of the two disciplines – both focused on communicating science, but with very different audiences. 
  • EJN partnered with Comms Inc in 2015 to organize a workshop in Chile on marine protected areas and ocean conservation in the region. The 13 selected journalists received training from some of the best scientists and journalists in the marine field and had the opportunity to learn more about the political debate regarding the creation of new marine protected areas. 
  • With the support of the Adessium Foundation, EJN is currently working with local journalists and networks, media outlets and other international NGOs to boost coverage of IUU fisheries issues in West Africa. The program has entailed a workshop for local journalists in Ghana carried out in September, 2017 and an upcoming workshop to be held in Senegal in 2018. We’ve also been commissioning stories by journalists from all around coastal West Africa, which will include some investigative reports. More details can be found here.

  • In Europe, EJN carried out an Adessium-supported project on reforming the EU Common Fisheries Policy during 2011-12 that involved workshops in Ireland, France and Germany, and also a series of stories we commissioned that were carried out by European journalists on the need for better fisheries management in the EU. More details can be found here

  • EJN has worked with partners in Japan to build capacity among Japanese media on ocean and fisheries issues. More specifically, we have collaborated with the Japan Association of Science and Technology Journalists to develop the Japanese version of the toolkit, and localize it for Japanese issues. EJN also took part in a meeting of Japanese innovators working on sustainable seafood initiatives organized by the Packard Foundation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we presented an initial version of the toolkit and worked on plans to spread news and information about ocean and fisheries issues to Japanese audiences.

  • In 2016, EJN took a global look at the future of marine conservation by commissioning a series of reports to explore disruptive innovations. These stories provided a multi-dimensional, global look at the technologies, policies, and people that are creating a new future for the world's oceans. These stories are featured on our Future Oceans microsite.

To help fill the need for better reporting on ocean and fisheries issues, address coverage gaps and assist reporters in communicating the often complex topics associated with it, EJN also produced on online guide for media called Covering the Seas: An Online Toolkit. Developed with the support of the Packard Foundation and written by noted author Paul Greenberg, this issue guide takes an in-depth look at the state of the fisheries industry, the rapidly growing aquaculture business, the oceans’ environmental stressors, and potential solutions for a sustainable seafood trade. The toolkit has also been translated and is now available in English, Chinese, Bahasa Indonesian and Japanese. This guide has thus far proved to be a key resource in supporting media coverage as it has been utilized by journalists during a story grants program around the Global Ocean Commission report launch

You can also download our report, Indonesia Marine and Fisheries Media Mapping Study, which provides quantitative and qualitative analysis of coverage of ocean and fisheries issues by Indonesian media outlets.

Program Team