Paul Holthus

Bringing together the business community for healthy and sustainable oceans



IFA: What is the World Ocean Council? What is its mission, and its priorities?
Paul Holthus, Founding President and CEO
: The World Ocean Council (WOC) is a not-for-profit, non-government business organization. Its vision is a healthy and productive global ocean and its sustainable use, development and stewardship by a responsible ocean business community; and its mission is to bring together the multi-sectoral ocean business community to catalyze global leadership and collaboration in ocean sustainability and “Corporate Ocean Responsibility”.

As the only international multi-industry business leadership alliance on ocean sustainable development, science and stewardship, the WOC has a unique membership of companies from around the world and across sectors, and a growing global WOC network of more than 34,000 ocean industry stakeholders.

The WOC has created the Sustainable Ocean Summit (SOS) – the only annual global, multi-industry gathering developed by and for the business community and with a focus on sustainable development. The WOC SOS has become recognized as the international ocean business community conference on Corporate Ocean Responsibility. Its next meeting is coming up in Halifax, on 29 Nov-1 Dec 2017.

IFA: What are the emerging issues impacting oceans’ health and sustainability today?
Paul Holthus
: With the growing use of marine areas by an increasing variety of commercial interests, there are increasingly complex risks from environmental impacts, cumulative effects, and conflicts in use. The best efforts by a single company or whole industry sector will not be able to address these challenges and opportunities.

The WOC is creating international multi-sectoral/multi-stakeholder “platforms” to tackle cross-cutting priorities for ocean sustainable development, e.g. ocean governance/policy, marine spatial planning, marine sound, pollution, the Arctic, marine invasive species, marine debris, marine mammal impacts, port reception facilities, the adaptation of ports and coastal infrastructure to sea level rise/extreme weather events, data collection by ocean industries (ships/platforms of opportunity), pirate fishing/fishery catch documentation and traceability.

IFA: What solutions does WOC advocate for?
Paul Holthus
: The WOC is the only organization instigating and leading international, cross-sectoral ocean industry leadership through:

  • Creating the “Ocean Investment Platform”, a system for linking ocean industries, innovators and investors to accelerate investment in ocean sustainable development;
  • Addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by leading business community efforts to develop ocean industry targets and indicators;
  • Launching a global Young Ocean Professionals initiative for the ocean business community;
  • Developing regional multi-sectoral ocean business leadership groups.

IFA: What is the best way for the private sector to get involved in Ocean Sustainable Development?
Paul Holthus
: The WOC brings together leadership companies that depend on the ocean to catalyse global leadership and collaboration in addressing cross-cutting issues in support of responsible business, reduced risk, continued access, and sustainable development. A wide range of ocean industry companies from around the world are distinguishing themselves as leaders in “Corporate Ocean Responsibility” by joining the WOC and getting involved in the ocean issue platforms along with like-minded peers from other sectors.



Note from IFA:

Read more about achieving Goal 14 by heading to our SDGs Page .


About WOC:

The WOC was launched in 2008 as a nonprofit organization to advance industry leadership and collaboration in ocean sustainable development, science and stewardship. The WOC is an international organization registered in the US and the UK.


About Paul Holthus:

Paul works with the private sector and market forces to develop practical solutions for achieving sustainable development and addressing environmental concerns, especially for marine areas and resources.

His experience ranges from working with the global industry associations or directors of UN agencies to working with fishermen in small island villages. Paul has been involved in coastal and marine resource sustainable development and conservation work in over 30 countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, Central America and Africa. As a consultant on sustainable development and environmental management, he has worked with companies, industry associations, UN agencies, international NGOs and foundations on sustainability, especially in the areas of oil/gas, fisheries, aquaculture, standards and certification.

Past roles include: Deputy Director for the Global Marine and Coastal Program of IUCN – The World Conservation Union; founding Executive Director of the Marine Aquarium Council; Senior Officer in the Nature Conservancy’s Asia-Pacific Program; Senior Program Officer of the UNEP South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).