Save Our Seas Foundation
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.
From a small not-for-profit organisation funding just five projects, in less than 10 years, the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) grew to become a major player in the fight to save the world’s oceans and the wealth of marine life they contain. While the SOSF itself is not a research institute, its generous contributions of financial, practical and scientific support have to date facilitated over 200 marine research and conservation projects around the world. The projects they support are based all over the world and fall into the categories of Conservation, Awareness, Research and Education, with a strong focus on sharks and rays.
In addition to supporting projects all over the world, they have four research and education centres. 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.
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.