New policy handbook to help governments fight ocean acidification

A new policy handbook, launched today, will help Commonwealth governments put in place strategies to tackle ocean acidification – a key aspect of climate change.

Ocean acidification happens when the sea absorbs excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, primarily caused by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

This leads to an increase in the acidity of the ocean, affecting the lifecycles and biology of certain marine species, and in turn, threatening the entire food web as well as the lives and livelihoods of communities that depend on these ocean resources.

Pragmatic solutions

Tackling this challenge requires technical expertise and capacity that are often not available in Commonwealth countries. The new handbook addresses this gap by identifying existing resources, streamlining technical concepts, outlining pragmatic solutions and providing useful templates for policy makers.

The handbook was commissioned by the New Zealand government, which champions the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Ocean Acidification.

The Foreign Affairs Minister of New Zealand, Nanaia Mahuta said:

“We know that ocean acidification has serious consequences for sea life, and this Policymakers’ Handbook for Addressing the Impacts of Ocean Acidification is an important resource. It is designed for people who make decisions about how we use and protect our oceans. It introduces them to the steps needed to address ocean acidification. It enables them to act as ‘kaitiaki’ or guardians.”

Far-reaching value

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland stated:

“The study of ocean acidification and its effects has grown dramatically in the past 15 years, and while the problem is global, it is important for national and regional responses to be developed to address local impacts. The handbook has the potential to deliver far-reaching and lasting value, by supporting the identification and implementation by policymakers of response strategies to ocean acidification.”

A particular focus in the handbook is on collaboration, which is a distinctive feature of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, an agreement adopted in 2018 by the 54 Commonwealth member countries to work together to solve ocean challenges.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is implemented through 10 action groups led by 15 “champion countries”, which focus on guiding the development of knowledge, tools and training on ocean priorities such as marine plastic pollution, ocean climate change, and the sustainable blue economy.

Working together

Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, said:

“This new handbook is an example of the concrete and practical outcomes that are generated by the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Groups and their discussions. While we all understand the grave threats that confront the ocean – and consequently, the entire planet – we must also realise that we, as the global community, can do something about it, by working together to share expertise, pool resources and align national and regional strategies to existing global commitments.”

The launch of this publication follows on the first-ever workshop by the Commonwealth Ocean Acidification Action Group, hosted in 2019 by New Zealand in its role as Champion Country for the group. The workshop included discussions among scientific experts and observers, joined by government officials from 17 Commonwealth countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, New Zealand, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, and Vanuatu. They identified strategies to address the impacts of ocean acidification, including marine monitoring, capacity development, ocean literacy, governance, and management.

Handbook templates

Hack the Planet competition seeks solutions to the world’s most pressing ocean challenges

To celebrate Earth Day on 22 April, the Commonwealth Secretariat and Satellite Applications Catapult are launching the first-ever Hack the Planet competition, in search of innovative, impactful and scalable ideas that will tackle the threats facing communities around the world, linked to ocean degradation and the climate crisis.

Virtual ideas competition

The virtual ideas competition will advance outstanding home-grown solutions from across 54 Commonwealth countries, targeting some of the world’s most pressing ocean-related challenges, such as eliminating plastic pollution, accelerating sustainable energy uptake, climate change, developing sustainable ‘blue’ approaches for the ocean economy and protecting nature in marine areas.

With £10,000 in prize money to be won, the competition will encourage entrants to utilise and explore the information and connectivity available from satellites as part of their ideas.

Announcing the initiative, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said:

“The Commonwealth is an extremely diverse group of 54 countries, including some of the smallest and most vulnerable in the world, that have made a shared commitment under the Commonwealth Blue Charter to work together to tackle ocean-related challenges.

“I am therefore encouraged by the sheer range of possibilities this competition will open up to identify new and improved ideas on how to address ocean sustainability. We look forward to receiving ideas from individuals, teams, and organisations from across our regions, which we could then support and amplify globally.”

Lucy Edge, Chief Operating Officer at the Satellite Applications Catapult added:

“We are very excited to launch Hack the Planet today and look forward to the innovative ideas we will see from around the world. Satellites provide a unique view of our planet Earth – they are vital for meaningful monitoring and mitigation of the effects of climate change and will be an important part of any solution looking at the world’s oceans.

“It’s a wonderful and rare opportunity for people around the Commonwealth to come together and develop innovative ideas into world-changing concepts that take significant and measurable steps towards solving some of the world’s biggest ocean challenges.”

Competition details

The deadline for online submissions is 31st May 2021. The theme of the competition is closely aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 14 (ocean), 13 (climate) and 7 (energy).

Specific examples of issues that could be addressed include those covered by the Commonwealth Blue Charter: marine plastic pollution, coral reef protection and restoration, mangrove ecosystems and livelihoods, marine protected areas, ocean acidification, ocean and climate change, ocean observations, sustainable aquaculture and sustainable coastal fisheries.

In the second phase of the competition, 30 shortlisted teams will be invited to participate in a knowledge exchange programme where they will learn about satellite technologies and elements of design thinking that could support their ideas, and hone these into robust, compelling pitches. The training and support provided during the knowledge exchange programme will be highly valuable and will support participants to improve their ideas with the help of a wide variety of industry experts.

Six finalists will be selected to pitch their ideas live in front of a panel of judges. The winner of the competition will receive £10,000 and the announcement of the results will take place at a final showcase event in October 2021.

For details on how to enter, visit (live from 22 April) or or download the media toolkit.

Event: Path to Action – Addressing the Impacts of Ocean Acidification

 New Zealand, as the Champion for the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Ocean Acidification has developed a Handbook to support policymakers’ efforts to identify and implement ocean acidification response strategies. This handbook will be unveiled at a special web event in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat. 

Key recommendations from the handbook will be presented to highlight region-specific actions and implementation plans and will consist of comments from the panellists followed by a general Q & A with the audience.


  • Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs New Zealand (video remarks) 
  • Dr Nick Hardman-Mountford, Head of Oceans & Natural Resources, Commonwealth Secretariat (mod.) 
  • Dr Christina McGraw, Chair – New Zealand Ocean Acidification Community Council and Senior Lecturer, University of Otaga 
  • Dr Jacqueline Uku, President – WIOMSA, Kenya Marine & Fisheries Research Institute (Session I) 
  • Jessie Turner, Project Manager, Secretariat for the OA Alliance (Session I) 
  • Alexis Valauri-Orton, Program Officer, The Ocean Foundation (Session II) 
  • Dr R Duncan McIntosh, Oceanography Officer, SPREP (Session II)

webinar speakers


More information

For more information contact: [email protected]

Event: Official launch of the Hack the Planet Competition

We are pleased to announce the official launch of the Hack the Planet Competition by Satellite Applications Catapult and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The climate emergency, demonstrated through ever more damaging climatic events across the planet, has intensified the need to attack the major sustainability challenges for life on this planet.

The ocean, as Earth’s primary life support system, is central to tackling these challenges. Covering more than 70% of the planet, it is the ocean that makes this planet liveable and allows people and societies to prosper. It has continually buffered us from the impacts of rising temperatures and rising atmospheric CO 2 levels, but is now itself under threat.

Virtual ideas competition

Hack the Planet is an entirely virtual international ideas competition that will bring together ideas from diverse communities living on the front-line in facing the challenges of the climate emergency and ocean sustainability across the Commonwealth, together with the technical resources to support the innovation of new solutions.

The competition aims to stimulate discussion around the development of new concepts relating to the sustainability of the ocean, incorporating satellite data and technologies. Solutions will be aligned to the 10 action areas of the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Join us at the launch to find out more. RSVP NOW

Competition Highlights

  • 22nd April 2021 – Competition opens for entries
  • 21st June 2021 – Announcement of shortlisted entries
  • 1st July – 31st August 2021 – Delivery of Knowledge Exchange programme for shortlisted entrants, including training and mentorship from a range of technical and investment experts
  • 22nd September – Finalists announced
  • 14th October – Final pitch event and winners announced

For any interview requests or if you are unable to attend the event at this time and would like to watch the recording, please get in touch via [email protected]

Commonwealth celebrates women in ocean science

Women working in the ocean sector across the Commonwealth have been applauded for breaking gender barriers in traditionally male-dominated industries, laying the groundwork for more gender equity in ocean science.

An inspiring line up of women shared their professional struggles and triumphs, while offering advice for the Commonwealth’s next generation of female marine experts, during a virtual event marking International Women’s Day and Commonwealth Day in March.


The webinar, organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, opened with Secretary-General Patricia Scotland urging countries to support women’s participation in the sector:

“We need women to be inspired early in their careers to take up ocean science and to be encouraged to maintain their engagement. None of our nations or communities can afford to disregard the skills women and girls have to offer.”

The Maldives’ Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture, Zaha Waheed recounted her own early career experience as the only female trainee in a research team of men.

She said that while the gender gap has improved in her country – both the Minister and Permanent Secretary of marine resources are women, for example – cultural obstacles remain.

“Our main barrier is attributed to the attitudes and beliefs within our communities – the belief that this is a masculine industry, and that anything to do with the open ocean environment – diving or going to the field for research, is not for girls,” said Hon Waheed.

Global shift

Tackling this stereotype head on is Emily Penn, a skipper and ocean advocate. She founded the pioneering non-profit eXXpedition, which runs all-female sailing research expeditions at sea and online, to investigate the causes of and solutions to ocean plastic pollution.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made us really aware of our vulnerability, [in terms of] our health, our environment, our economy and our politics. We have a chance right now to embrace our global shift moment and to take this moment to reset our priorities,” she said.

Acting Director of the Institute of Marine Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, Rahanna Juman, shared how hard work and perseverance helped her succeed in the face of various challenges over her 25-year career.

“Research is about passion and purpose. The reason why I have been able to survive and grow as a female scientist is because I love what I do,” said Dr Juman.

Fellow panellist and Acting Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer in Antigua and Barbuda, Tricia Lovell, echoed the focus on passion in her advice to early-career women scientists.

As a PhD candidate at the World Maritime University, she said: “Find what makes you passionate and motivated and always seek opportunities for learning… To remain relevant and to make an impact in the ocean sciences, you must be knowledgeable of the current trends.”

Speakers during the virtual women in ocean science event for International Women’s Day

Gender equity report

The event also highlighted a recently-published report titled ‘Gender Equity in Ocean Science’, funded by the Government of Canada as the Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion on Ocean Observations.

The report found that women are under-represented globally in the field of ocean science, particularly in leadership positions. A “leaky pipeline” phenomenon also meant that academic qualifications do not always translate into successful careers for women. While they make up 53% of total Bachelor’s and Master’s degree holders in the world, women only constitute 28% of senior researchers.

Presenting the report, Dr Arran McPherson, Assistant Deputy Minister at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, stated: “Promoting gender equity in all scientific fields is a priority for Canada. In ocean science in particular, we’ve been trying to shine a spotlight on specific challenges that women face, and at the same time highlight role models and opportunities for action.”

Recommendations included ensuring gender equity in decision-making, creating opportunities for mentoring and leadership for women, co-creating ocean science management plans with women and collecting gender-disaggregated data for the sector. The report also called for more capacity building and exchange programmes, as well as support for gender allies.


Towards a ‘blue recovery’ in the Commonwealth

By Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, Head of oceans and natural resources, Commonwealth Secretariat

We have one interconnected ocean that sustains life on this planet. Yet it is under threat from a myriad of human pressures, such as climate change, marine pollution, and overfishing, with no holistic approach to tackle these.

Worldwide, marine conservation and other ocean solutions continue to be severely underfunded, ocean climate change under-researched, while global frameworks for governing the ocean, particularly beyond national jurisdictions, remain weak and inadequate.

Many opportunities have been missed, but 2021 presents a rare opportunity to tackle these ocean challenges, and the Commonwealth Blue Charter offers a unique platform to catalyse multilateral actions to do so.

2021 – A ‘make or break’ year

The coronavirus pandemic has compelled governments to overhaul national, regional and international priorities. It has also taught us that we can adapt to new realities. A growing call for a “green recovery” has put sustainability as a realistic option for post-pandemic rebuilding strategies.

Two major global summits this year – the UN conferences on biodiversity (CBD-COP15) and climate change (UNFCCC-COP26) – present a prime opportunity for ocean states to also rally round a post-Covid “blue recovery”.

Such a step forward would highlight the central role of the ocean in upholding vast natural ecosystems, the climate system and economic systems. The focus would be on the sustainable development of the global ocean economy, which was already generating $2.5 trillion worth of goods and services each year before the pandemic, on top of an estimated asset value of $24 trillion.

In particular, this could help support vulnerable ocean-based economies that have been most severely impacted by Covid-19, such as small island states.

A blue recovery would also maximise innovative financing for ocean protection (‘blue finance’), and explore new ways of creating economic value, such as monetising the carbon storage capacity of coastal and marine ecosystems (‘blue carbon’).

A fresh take on multilateral ocean action

With 47 out of its 54 member countries bordering the ocean, 25 being small island developing states – or ‘large ocean states’ – the Commonwealth is well-placed as a global leader on ocean action to champion a thriving blue economy in a post-Covid world.

The historic Commonwealth Blue Charter, adopted in 2018, captures the shared commitment of 54 countries to working together to actively solve ocean-related challenges.

To date, 15 countries have stepped forward to lead 10 action groups, working on a range of ocean issues. Focus areas and champion countries include: sustainable blue economy (co-led by Kenya, Antigua & Barbuda); sustainable aquaculture (led by Cyprus); coral reef protection and restoration (Australia, Belize, Mauritius); mangrove ecosystems and livelihoods (Sri Lanka); ocean acidification (New Zealand); ocean and climate change (Fiji); ocean observations (Canada); marine plastic pollution (known as the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, co-led by the United Kingdom, Vanuatu); marine protected areas (Seychelles) and sustainable coastal fisheries (Kiribati, Maldives).

Forty-six countries (and counting) have signed up to one or more of these action groups, supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat, along with a range of partners from the private sector, academia, civil society and the philanthropic sector.


In a world of complex multilateral structures and well-intended declarations, the Commonwealth Blue Charter seeks to support existing global ocean commitments by bringing a fresh approach focused on active and innovative collaboration.

As membership of the action groups is voluntary, countries that do sign up are already motivated to deliver real progress on a particular issue. These action groups have met over the past year and developed joint action plans and priorities. Different action groups also feed into each other, given the strongly interrelated nature of their work areas.

Today, hundreds of focal points and partners from across the Commonwealth use the Commonwealth Blue Charter’s online network to share strategies, exchange information and highlight best practices.

More than 60 detailed case studies of good and best practices have been developed and are being shared on the network, in addition to 10 training programmes and webinars delivered by the Secretariat, benefitting thousands of professionals in the ocean industries.

Collaborators from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Royal Foundation’s Earthshot Prize, Vulcan Inc., the Nekton Foundation, and eXXpedition,  among others, are working together with the Blue Charter family of nations on targeted projects and partnerships.

Very soon, countries will also be able to leverage a new database that aims to support them in accessing US$ 170 million of available funding for ocean projects.

Moving forward, the Commonwealth Blue Charter will continue to be a testament to what can be achieved when countries work together, sharing passion and commitment, to save the ocean and the livelihoods that depend on it. A thriving blue economy is indeed within reach.

To find out how to join the action, visit email [email protected]

8th Annual World Ocean Summit

In its eighth year, The Economist’s World Ocean Summit 2021 is going virtual for the first time and for this year only, the event is free-to-attend.

Meaningful connections

The virtual week offers the opportunity to access hours of highly curated content over five days, and the chance to make meaningful connections no matter where you are in the world.

The Commonwealth Secretariat will be participating at the conference, highlighting its role in promoting international cooperation around ocean governance and ocean health, particularly through the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Summit’s focus

The summit’s focus will be on high-level conversation and policymaking in plenary sessions as well as industry focus in six dedicated tracks: aquaculture, fishing, energy, plastics, shipping, and tourism.

In addition, participants will be able to engage across sectors to explore the role the ocean plays in tackling climate change, enhancing biodiversity, protecting coastal communities, and restoring ecosystems.

Commonwealth speakers

  • The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, will be speaking on a high-level panel on the topic of ‘Governance: Ocean governance and national ocean strategies’, on 1 March 2021, 12:10 pm -1:00 pm GMT.
  • Head of Oceans and Natural Resources, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, will be speaking during a session ‘Innovation: Advances in science and technology to preserve ocean health and mitigate climate change’, on 1 March 2021, 2:40 pm – 3:20 pm GMT.


Register free to join over 5,000 participants and 150 global leaders across the week, in our mission to accelerate a sustainable ocean economy.

You can view the high profile speaker line-up and agenda here.

International Women’s Day 2021 – Sea the She: Recognising women’s contributions to ocean science

Friday 5 March 2021 – 1:00pm to 2:00pm

The Commonwealth covers 54 countries, 47 of which are coastal states, including two-thirds of the world’s small island developing states: essentially those most vulnerable to ocean degradation and climate change.

The Commonwealth has a huge stake in the future of our global ocean, together covering more than one-third (35%) of national marine waters globally and home to 45% of coral reefs.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, the Commonwealth Secretariat will be celebrating women’s contributions to ocean science with a virtual event.

The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth will introduce this special web event, which will highlight inspiring stories of women from across the Commonwealth who are challenging gender norms through their work in ocean industries.

Speakers include special address from Hon. Ms. Zaha Waheed, minister of fisheries, marine resources and agriculture, Maldives along with perspectives from Emily Penn, co-founder of eXXpedition; Tricia Lovell, a senior fisheries officer, Antigua and Barbuda; Dr Rahanna Juman, Deputy Director Research at the Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago.

The Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Oceans Science, Dr. Arran McPherson will present key findings and recommendations from the Gender Equity in Oceans Science report published in late 2020. This report commissioned by Fisheries and Oceans Canada focuses on how better opportunities can be opened up in ocean sciences for women and those who identify as non-binary.

A short film will be screened about gender equality in ocean sciences in the Commonwealth.