Our Story

Photo credit: Amanda Cotton / Ocean Image Bank

Introducing the ECOP Programme

An ECOP is considered as a person that self-identifies as being early in their career (10 years or less of professional experience) in any field related to the ocean (not only employed/ paid positions). The term “professional” is used in order to be inclusive of professionals from many different sectors of society.


Our vision is to elevate and strengthen the diverse perspectives of new generations of ocean professionals through a collective voice, ensuring that knowledge is transferred between experienced professionals and ECOPs to promote ocean sustainability for “The Ocean We Want”.


Our mission is to incorporate new ways of thinking into global ocean sustainability and stewardship challenges. The ECOP programme will achieve this by empowering ECOPs with meaningful networking and professional development opportunities with each other and with local to global institutions through the framework of the UN Ocean Decade.

To get a summary of our programme, please download our ECOP Factsheet

Our Objectives

  • To create a global network of ECOPs to foster collaborations across geographies, disciplines, and sectors to address and coordinate action towards achieving the objectives of the Decade.
  • To provide opportunities for ECOPs all around the world to elevate their collective voice and participate in relevant ocean sustainability dialogue, particularly under the auspices of the Decade.
  • To identify, create, and share professional development opportunities to advance ECOP careers while paving the way for the next generation, particularly for under-represented groups.
  • To secure positions for ECOPs as members of working groups and structures coordinating activities related to the Decade.
  • To secure sources of funding for ECOP related activities throughout the Decade and beyond.

ECOP Representatives  – Evgeniia Kostianaia, Erin Satterthwaite, and Harriet Harden-Davies – with Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the IOC-UNESCO, at the UN Ocean Decade Executive Planning Group Meeting, 15-17 January, 2020, Paris, France

Our Journey

The idea for an ECOP working group for the Ocean Decade was conceived during the First Global Planning Meeting (May 2019) organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) in Copenhagen, Denmark. After identifying the lack of representation for early-career attendants at the meeting, a group of self-organized ECOPs  (Alfredo Giron-Nava, Erin Satterthwaite, Guillermo Ortuno Crespo, Harriet Harden-Davies, and other early-career professionals) came together to discuss their vision for the future engagement of ECOPs in the Ocean Decade and beyond.

During the concluding remarks panel of this event, this group of ECOPs requested a partnership with many of the current ocean leaders in the preparatory phase of the Ocean Decade which included the following elements: 

  1. Representation at planning meetings;
  2. Creating a diverse ECOP working group to identify ways to include ECOPs in every aspect of the Ocean Decade;
  3. Launching a global survey to integrate the perspectives of ECOPs in the planning phases. 

In all these activities, there was a particular emphasis on the importance of achieving demographic, gender, racial, professional, and generational representativity in all Ocean Decade activities to ensure that everyone is engaged and has equal opportunities to generate, assimilate, and transfer knowledge in the context of the Ocean Decade. The appeal of these individuals and their continuous exceptional efforts laid the foundation for the ECOP Programme.

The original proposal received immense support from the IOC and many of the partners at the First Global Planning Meeting. Since then, ECOPs have been an integral part of the Ocean Decade, participating in many committees, panels, workshops, and related events such as the regional planning meetings, the science and communications plans task teams, and community events hosted by the IOC and other organizations.

The IOC also sponsored a consultant (Harriet Harden-Davies) to coordinate the nascent movement, who gathered a group of 42 ECOPs from around the world to pave the way forward, which was called an Informal Working Group (IWG). This group has been instrumental in connecting to regional ECOP networks and establishing a constant early career presence in all events related to the Ocean Decade and more broadly to ocean sustainability conversations.

Alfredo Giron-Nava delivering a message on the importance of including Early Career Ocean Professionals in every aspect of the UN Decade during the 1st Global Planning Meeting concluding remarks panel, 13-15 May, 2019, Copenhagen, Denmark

A global survey was also launched to collect the perspectives of ECOPs to be incorporated into the implementation plan of the Ocean Decade. The survey received an overwhelmingly positive response – collecting views from more than 1400 ECOPs from over 100 countries in less than 4 months. This survey and other global consultations identified several broad needs, which were translated into 5 priority areas for ECOP involvement in the Ocean Decade. These 5 priority areas became the basis for the formation of the following task teams which drove our work in 2020-2021:

  1. Network of Networks/ Information Portal;
  2. Training and Mentoring;
  3. Ocean Literacy;
  4. Youth Engagement;
  5. Corporate Sustainability;
  6. Coordination of ECOP activities

In June 2021, the ECOP group participated in the planning of the First International Conference of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and an ECOP-led event closely linked to it. This event was called the V.ECOP Day (“V” stands for ‘Virtual”) and was organized by the German Marine Research Consortium (KDM) & the ECOP Program with support from Fisheries and Oceans Canada & the Eli’s Framework Program for Research and Innovation. The V.ECOP Day was an officially endorsed UN Ocean Decade Activity.

Our Story so far

Watch this short video, which charts our journey from the inception of the ECOP Programme to our work today.  

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