The ocean covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface area or 139 million square miles, and a new initiative launched last April aims to protect 5% of it in the next five years. It may appear insignificant, but it is larger than the entire continent of South America at 7 million square miles. Both the target and the timetable are ambitious, given that only about 3% of the world’s ocean is currently fully covered. The Blue Nature Alliance has a “very audacious goal,” according to M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, one of the project’s leaders. “In terms of scale and pace, it’s probably the largest single conservation initiative.”

Thanks to a collaboration between Conservation International and other environmental and social non-profits including The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Global Environment Facility, Minderoo Foundation, and the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation, the Blue Nature Alliance has raised $125 million to protect the ocean from these threats. Antarctica, Fiji, Canada, Seychelles, Palau, the Western Indian Ocean, and Tristan da Cunha, a South Atlantic Ocean island, are the Alliance’s initial target areas. These areas, which span over 2.5 million square miles, account for more than a third of the overall target. It says it will start by focusing on conservation in these areas, working with local communities and national leaders to create new marine protected areas (MPAs), and improve management of existing ones.