Inspiring some of the largest marine reserves in the world.
Without the ocean, life would be impossible. It provides food, livelihoods for billions of people, and regulates the climate. But the ocean is under threat from overfishing, global warming and pollution.
Yet today, only 8% of the ocean is somehow protected — and less than 3% is fully protected from fishing and other damaging activities.
Pristine Seas works with local communities, Indigenous Peoples, government and partners to protect the last wild places left, but also areas that have been somehow degraded by human activities, so they can bounce back. Marine life thrives in these marine protected areas and provides multiple benefits to people, from food and coastal protection to jobs and economic revenue.
Where we work
Since 2008, Pristine Seas has carried out 41 expeditions to over 30 places, 26 of which have since been protected, covering a total area of more than 6.6 million square kilometers.
The Global Expedition
In 2023, National Geographic Pristine Seas launched a bold new conservation effort: The Global Expedition. The Pristine Seas team of scientists, policy experts, and filmmakers, will spend the next five years exploring the tropical Pacific aboard the R/V Argo, a 130-foot customized research vessel and media center, with the goal of supporting communities and governments in their efforts to protect the ocean. The Argo is Pristine Seas’ modern-day equivalent of Jacques Cousteau’s famous ship Calypso, but with an ocean conservation purpose.
A closer look
Our team of scientists, filmmakers and policy experts have traveled across the ocean — from the poles to the tropics — to inspire the creation of marine protected areas. Take a closer look at some success stories from around the world.
Tristan da Cunha
Juan Fernández Archipelago
Pristine Seas team members have collectively published more than 200 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals ranging from Nature, Science Advances, PLOS One and more.
Leveraging world-class expertise
Enric Sala is a former university professor who saw himself writing the obituary of ocean life, and quit academia to become a full-time conservationist as a National Geographic Explorer in Residence. He founded and leads Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research, and media to inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean. To date, Pristine Seas has helped to create 26 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of more than 6 million square kilometers. He has earned numerous honors for his work, including 2008 World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, 2013 Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award, 2013 Environmental Media Association Hero Award, 2016 Russian Geographical Society Award, 2018 Heinz Award in Public Policy, 2021 Prince Albert I Grand Medal, and 2021 National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Sala earned a B.S. in Biology from the University of Barcelona and a Ph.D. in ecology from Aix-Marseille University, France.
Our impact is often featured in the news. Here are some of the most recent stories about the work the Pristine Seas team is doing around the world.
About Pristine Seas
Since 2008, Pristine Seas has helped establish 26 of the largest marine protected areas in the world, covering a total area of 6.6 million square kilometers — more than twice the size of India.
With support from
Bezos Earth Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Lindblad Expeditions–National Geographic Fund, Don Quixote Foundation, Inclusive Capital Partners Foundation, The Campbell Foundation, Waitt Foundation, Oracle, Dutch Postcode Lottery, LGT Venture Philanthropy, Philip Stephenson Foundation, Walmart Foundation, The Heinz Family Foundation, Beagle Foundation, Serventi Family Foundation, and other individual donors.
Allison Bennington, Brook Foundation, Jean and Steve Case, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, DAVIDOFF Cool Water, Roger and Rosemary Enrico, Helmsley Charitable Trust, Google, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Vicki and Roger Sant, and other individual donors.
Photo credits (from top of page): Manu San Félix, Ossie Michelin, SerrNovik/Getty/iStockphoto, Manu San Félix, Enric Sala, Ossie Michelin, Enric Sala (2)