Marine Degradation

Protecting our oceans is the single most important way we can ensure the survival of life on Earth.

The world’s oceans are the largest ecosystems on Earth, supporting all life on the planet… including ours.

Protecting marine life and ocean ecosystems is critical to ensuring a sustainable future for all life on Earth. As overfishing, pollution, climate change and human exploitation increasingly threaten this life-preserving resource, we find ourselves at a greater risk than ever of mass extinctions.

Preserving healthy marine ecosystems – from microscopic organisms to the largest mammals – ensures the survival of millions of animals that live on the planet.

The intensifying issues caused by human encroachment and exploitation are making marine conservation more important than ever before. The ocean is one of Earth’s most valuable resources, covering a massive 71% of the planet’s surface. This global force of nature is our very life-support system, freely offering essentials for the survival of all living species, from the food we eat to the oxygen we breathe.

Marine species populations are decreasing at a staggering rate. Species of whales, dolphins, manatees and dugongs, sea turtles and sharks, amongst hundreds of others, are now listed as endangered. The unprecedented extinction rate of marine animals not only threatens the healthy function of marine ecosystems, but also affects larger, complex ecological issues.

What we do to help protect marine life.

At ASI, we tackle projects, provide support and create awareness to help change and improve activities that have a direct impact on marine animals.

South Africa Marine

The global population of African penguins has plummeted by a shocking 98% to just 23,000 breeding pairs worldwide – around half of which live in South Africa. Unfortunately, their perilous position is compounded by extreme weather patterns, which are becoming increasingly severe thanks to the devastating effects of climate change. 

Addo National Park’s Bird Island is a crucial breeding ground for these penguins. So when exceptionally harsh weather during the species’ breeding season put penguin chicks in danger, we leapt into action. With our donors’ support, we were able to airlift hundreds of penguin chicks by helicopter, whisking them away to a rehabilitation center and giving them a second chance at survival.

Credit: Addo Elephant National Park (AENP)

With just 23,000 breeding pairs worldwide – down from 1 million just a century ago – African penguins are facing the real threat of extinction. Human activities have driven them to the brink, with overfishing robbing them of their food sources, irresponsible fishing techniques leaving them trapped and strangled in nets, pollution covering them in oil, and climate change causing extreme weather patterns. 

In Gansbaai, South Africa, Dyer Island is home to 1,000 breeding pairs – a population that is just 4% of what their numbers were in 1979. The influences that have decimated this population over the years are only getting worse, and our partner, African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS), is doing everything they can to rescue and save injured penguins. To support their cause, we helped fund emergency repairs on their desalination plant, a critical piece of machinery without which the rescued penguins would surely perish.


In Cape Town, South Africa, Cape fur seals are under threat from the effects of climate change, commercial fishing and, more horrifically, people who use their parts for ‘traditional medicine’ or fishermen who kill them in the misguided assumption that they are competing for fish. 

Our partner is dedicated to protecting them from both human violence and habitat destruction, and we have contributed to vital conservation initiatives, investigations into seal deaths, and the pursuit of justice for the criminals who needlessly slaughter these defenseless animals.

Credit: ASI/Zara King and South Africa Sea Search Cape Fur Seals

The commercial fishing industry has wreaked havoc on marine life across the world. In South Africa, we support the work of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in freeing whales that become entangled in deadly fishing gear. Every year, thousands of dolphins and porpoises die after getting entangled – some drown immediately, while those who survive their initial entanglement endure many painful months, ultimately bleeding out from deep wounds or dying of starvation because their ability to dive and feed is impaired. We provide NSRI with funds for specialized equipment to free whales along the Southern Africa coast, as well as to train whale disentanglement experts.

We also support the work of Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, which rescues, rehabilitates and releases distressed baby turtles, most of whom wash up on beaches due to injury, dehydration or hypothermia. Many are found to have ingested large amounts of plastic. Because of their rapidly declining numbers, it is critical to try to save every possible turtle life.

The NSRI disentangles a whale.
Animal Survival International provides funding to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) for the specialised equipment needed to disentangle distressed whales.

Kenya Marine

On the coast of Kenya, 30% of sea turtles fall victim to entanglement when they get caught in fishermen’s nets, and in most cases, they die. We work with Kenyan partner, Local Ocean Conservation (LOC), to help fund critical turtle rescue, disentanglement and rehabilitation efforts in Watamu.

NFA team members release a turtle in Kenya.
Animal Survival International campaign director Luke Barritt and Bernice Purdham assist Local Ocean Conservation with a rescued turtle release in Wamatu.

Globally Marine

Beyond our practical efforts in the water, we work to expose the issues at stake, raising awareness and calling into question activities that are impacting on the survival of ocean life. By adopting a solid stance on marine conservation, we seek to encourage countries, world leaders, businesses and communities to prioritise conserving ocean habitats.

Despite the immense challenges of global marine conservation, there are solutions to keeping our oceans healthy.

Protecting the ocean and all life that depends on it requires immediate and urgent action. Nations must enforce stringent measures and legislation to halt the destruction of the most important resource on Earth. We need to work together to conserve, protect and restore our oceans by tackling issues like overfishing, climate change, carbon emissions, pollution, habitat destruction and other forms of human exploitation.

ASI team members clean up beach in Cape Town
Animal Survival International team members participate in a beach cleanup organised by our partner, the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.

An expanding human population is causing us to lose vital natural habitats through destruction and fragmentation at a rapid rate.

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