Leonardo DiCaprio Donates $2 Million To Ocean Conservation Efforts

CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio walks onstage to speak at the second day of the State Department's 'Our Ocean' conference at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, June 17, 2014.

For an actor who catapulted to international fame for a movie set largely in the ocean, giving back to the marine environment just makes sense.

Leonardo DiCaprio announced Thursday that his foundation, which is focused on conservation and climate change, is donating $2 million to marine conservation group Oceans 5.

“The sad truth is that less than two percent of our oceans are fully protected,” DiCaprio said in a statement. “We need to change that now. My Foundation supports Oceans 5 projects that are directly improving ocean health by stopping overfishing and creating marine reserves.”

Oceans 5 was created in 2011 and has worked on multiple marine conservation projects, including curbing illegal fishing and protecting key marine regions. DiCaprio’s contribution will help the group in its work to create protected areas in the Arctic and the Pacific Islands, and will also go toward enforcing fishing laws in the U.S. and abroad.

DiCaprio’s contribution to Oceans 5 marks the third time this year that he’s pledged donations to ocean-related groups. In June, he announced at a State Department conference that his foundation would be contributing $7 million to marine life and environment conservation efforts over the next two years, and in February, DiCaprio’s foundation donated $3 million to Oceana for initiatives aimed at protecting sharks and other keystone ocean species.

DiCaprio has been outspoken in recent years about the need to take action on climate change and on other major environmental problems, such as overfishing and the shark fin trade. DiCaprio supported bills to ban the sale of shark fins in New York and California, and his foundation donated $3 million last year to help the Wold Wildlife Fund in its quest to double Nepal’s population of wild tigers by 2022. DiCaprio also participated in September’s People’s Climate March in New York City, and spoke at the U.N.’s climate summit about the urgency of acting on climate change.

“I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be,” he said at the summit. “Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis. If we do not act together, we will surely perish. Now is our moment for action.”

DiCaprio’s contribution to Oceans 5 comes soon after September’s expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by the Obama administration, an effort that Oceans 5 supported. The monument will create a haven for marine life, safe from energy development and commercial — though not recreational — fishing.

Still, more of these protected areas are needed — less than one percent of the world’s oceans are protected, and experts maintain that good management of oceans will help make marine life more resilient to the impacts of climate change, such as ocean warming and acidification. According to the Nature Conservancy, coral reefs “can be resilient” to warming-induced stressors like bleaching if they’re well-protected from other human-induced stressors like pollution overfishing. One report from July found that some of the areas around the world with the healthiest coral reefs were those that had taken action to protect coral grazers such as parrotfish and sea urchins — either by banning the collection of these grazers or by banning the type of fishing methods that tend to trap grazers in their bycatch.