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Blue Carbon Code of Conduct

Story by Blue Forests Project June 8th, 2017

Why is a Blue carbon Code of Conduct Needed?

Why have we asked partners to submit a Blue Carbon Code of conduct to the UN Oceans Conference?

This is a non-binding Voluntary Commitment, essentially a pledge to support the development of fair, socially just and accountable blue carbon projects. Our code comes from Bennett et. al. 2017.

Our GOALS here are to:

  1. Raise the profile of the issue of community involvement in blue carbon project and to stimulate conversation;
  2. Help provide guidance for the appropriate and just involvement of communities in blue carbon projects, and so that we can avoid some of the negative socio-ecological issues that UN REDD has experienced; and to
  3. Help address the ‘blue carbon is ocean grabbing’ criticism that was advanced around COP21.

The following it the full text for the Voluntary Commitment submitted to the UN Oceans Conference:

Blue Carbon Code of Conduct Voluntary Commitment

Coastal ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems, including mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes, provide a wide range of ecosystem benefits vital to coastal and island life across the world. Such benefits include naturally buffering shorelines from storms and sea-level rise, filtering and improving water quality, storing and sequestering atmospheric carbon, providing nursery and essential habitat for fish, and supporting marine biodiversity. Coastal communities are also tied culturally and economically to the health of these ecosystems. Alarmingly, UNEP-WCMC and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat have reported that the global extent of natural wetlands has declined by 30 per cent between 1970 and 2008.

Blue carbon projects aim to harness the carbon value of coastal ecosystems in order to achieve goals in conservation and climate change. Interest in developing blue carbon projects is rapidly increasing, exemplified though the 28 countries that have recently included coastal ecosystems in climate change mitigation strategies in their Nationally Determined Contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and international initiatives such as the UN Environment Blue Forests Project and International Partnership on Blue Carbon.

However, terrestrial forest carbon projects have suffered criticism from negative socio-ecological consequences for communities, and a need has appeared to ensure that communities are included in a socially just manner during the development of blue carbon projects.

Together, with our growing global blue carbon community, we will strive to create fair, socially just and accountable blue carbon projects. Such efforts will help reduce risk and ensure the sustainability of project outcomes. In the development and advancing of blue carbon projects, where possible, we commit to support and embrace the following code of conduct for marine conservation advanced in Bennett et. al. 2017:

Code of Conduct for Blue carbon

1) Fair conservation governance and decision-making processes.

2) Socially-just conservation actions and outcomes.

3) Accountable conservation initiatives and organizations.

Code of Conduct reference:

Bennett, et. al. 2017. An appeal for a code of conduct for marine conservation, Marine Policy, 81. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2017.03.035. Available at:

Partners and beneficiaries

Lead entity:

GRID-Arendal, Norway (contact Steven Lutz, Blue Carbon Programme Lead).


Kenyan Marine Fisheries Research institute (KMFRI), State Corporation in the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, via the Mikoko Pamoja project, Kenya.

United Nations entity:

UN Environment, via the GEF Blue Forests Project, Kenya.

Non-governmental organizations (40):

Andros Conservancy and Trust (ANCAT), Bahamas;

Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (ANCON), Panama;

Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), Bahamas;

Blue Climate Solutions, USA;

Big Ocean, USA;

Blue Ventures, UK;

Central Caribbean Marine Institute, Cayman Islands;

Coastal Policy and Humanities Research, USA;

Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), USA;

Community of Arran Seabed Trust, UK;

Coral Cay Conservation (CCC), UK;

Cuba Marine Research and Conservation, USA;

Earth Council Alliance, USA;

Endangered Habitats League, USA;

Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine (FoProBiM), Haiti;

Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (FMCN), Mexico;

Fundación Natura, Panama;

GRID-Arendal, Norway;

Guanaja Mangrove Restoration, Honduras;

Green Heritage Fund, Suriname;

Healthy Reefs for Healthy People, Belize;

Island Offsets, Cayman Islands;

Jamaica Environment Trust, Jamaica;

Locally-Managed Marine Area Network International (LMMA), Philippines;

Marine Management Solutions, USA;

Marine Research Foundation, Malaysia;

Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA), Mexico;

Mikoko Pamoja (project and community organization), Kenya;

National Trust for the Cayman Islands, Cayman Islands;

Programa Cambio Climático y Cuencas, Costa Rica;


Restore America’s Estuaries, USA;

Saint Lucia National Trust, Saint Lucia;

SeaGrass Grow, USA;

Seagrass-Watch, Australia;

The Ocean Foundation, USA;

TierraMar, Australia;


West African Association for Marine Environment (WAAME), Senegal;

Women4Oceans, Netherlands.

Academic institutions (5):

Blue Carbon Lab, Deakin University, Australia;

Coral Reef Futures Lab, University of Miami, USA;

Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, Sweden;

Marine Education and Research Center, Institute for Water and Environment, Florida International University, USA;

The Connolly Lab, Griffith University, Australia.

Scientific community (47):

J.A. Atchue III, Environmental Scientist at Atchue LLC, USA;

Andrew Baker, PhD, Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, University of Miami, USA;

Anastazia T. Banaszak, PhD, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico;

Nathan Bennett, PhD, The Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, Canada;

Alex. F. Brylske, PhD, Marine Science & Technology, Florida Keys Community College, USA;

Clint Cameron, PhD candidate, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Australia;

John Cigliano, PhD, Director of Environmental Conservation, Department of Biological Sciences, Cedar Crest College, USA;

Rod Connolly, PhD, School of Environment, Griffith University, Coast and Estuaries division – Australian Rivers Institute, Australia;

Marie-Christine Cormier-Salem, PhD, French Institute for Research and Development, France;

Paulo da Cunha Lana, DSc, Full Professor, Biological Oceanography, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil;

Carlos Duarte, PhD, Director, Red Sea Research Center, Tarek Ahmed Juffali Research Chair in Red Sea Ecology, Red Sea Research Center (RSRC), Saudi Arabia;

Colin Field, PhD, Emeritus Professor, University of Technology, Australia;

James Fourqurean, PhD, Department of Biological Sciences and Southeast Environmental Research Center, Director, Marine Education and Research Initiative for the Florida Keys, Principal Investigator, Aquarius Reef Base, School of the Environment, Arts and Society, Florida International University, USA;

Martin Gullström, PhD, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, Sweden;

Craig Harris, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Michigan Agbio Research Center for Regional Food Systems, Michigan State University, USA;

Peter Harris, PhD, Managing Director, GRID-Arendal, Norway;

Ian Hendy, PhD, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Portsmouth, UK;

Masakazu Hori, PhD, National Research Institute of Fisheries and Environment of Inland Sea, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, Japan;

Lindsay Hutley, PhD, Environmental Science, Charles Darwin University, Australia;

Mark Huxham, PhD, Edinburgh Napier University, UK;

Rebecca Jarvis, PhD, Institute of Applied Ecology New Zealand, New Zealand;

James Kairo, PhD, Leader Blue Carbon Unit, Coordinator, Gazi Field Station, Kenyan Marine Fisheries Research institute, Kenya;

Zachary Koehn, PhD candidate, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, USA;

Lisa Konczal, PhD, Department of Sociology and Criminology, Barry University, USA;

Tomohiro Kuwae, PhD, Coastal and Estuarine Environment Research Group, Port and Airport Research Institute, Japan;

Judith Lang, PhD, Scientific Coordinator, Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Project, USA;

Tony Larkum, PhD, Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney, Australia;

David Letson, PhD, Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society, RSMAS/MES, University of Miami, USA;

Nai’a Lewis, Big Ocean, USA;

Catherine Lovelock, PhD, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia;

Peter Macreadie, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Blue Carbon Lab Leader, Deakin University, Australia;

Carrie Manfrino, PhD, Research & Conservation, Central Caribbean Marine Institute, Cayman Islands;

Nuria Marba, PhD, IMEDEA - Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies, Spain;

Pere Masqué, PhD, Professorial Chair Environmental Radiochemistry, Edith Cowan University, Australia;

Inés Mazarrasa Elósegui, PhD, Instituto de Hidráulica Ambiental de la Universidad de Cantabria, Spain;

Len McKenzie, Director, Seagrass-Watch, Australia;

Sean McQuilken, Freelance Biologist and Marine Endangered Species Observer, USA;

Maria Lourdes Q. Moreno, PhD, Chief, Mangrove and Beach Forest Section, Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, Forestry Campus, College, Laguna, Philippines;

James Morris, PhD, Belle W.Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences, Department of Biology, University of South Carolina, USA;

John C. Ogden, PhD, University of South Florida Professor Emeritus, Integrative Biology, USA;

Vasillis Papathanasiou, PhD, Hellenic Agricultural Organization-Demeter, National Agricultural Research Foundation, Greece;

Nicolas J Pilcher, PhD, Marine Research Foundation, Sabah, Malaysia;

Maria Potouroglou, PhD, Ecosystems, Economics and Sustainable Development Programme, GRID-Arendal, Norway;

Megan Saunders, PhD, Department of Environmental Science & Technology, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, University of Maryland, USA;

Alejandra Serrano, Independent Consultant on Environmental Law, Mexico;

Liana Talaue McManus, PhD, Project Manager, The Global Environment Facility Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme, UN Environment Programme, Kenya;

Tibor Vegh, PhD candidate, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University, USA;

Marjo Vierros, PhD, Director, Coastal Policy and Humanities Research, Canada;


By December 2020 Blue carbon projects are developed following the Blue Carbon Code of Conduct.

SDG 14 targets covered by commitment

14.2 By 2020, sustainably manage, and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience and take action for their restoration, to achieve healthy and productive oceans.

Linkages to other Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 10 Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Goal 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Goal 16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Footnote: Title image by Romy Chevallier, mural image by Caroline Schwaner/Duke University. Post by Steven Lutz.