Dan Laffoley

Dan joined the Nature Conservancy Council in 1988, whilst completing this PhD on marine ecology at the University of Exeter. Between 1988 and 1989 he helped establish the major UK marine biodiversity resource survey, the Marine Nature Conservation Review. In 1989 he was appointed as marine ecologist to the Estuaries Review – the first, and remains the only, UK-wide analysis of threats and pressures on estuarine biodiversity and habitats. In English Nature (1990 – 2006) he was appointed as Head of Marine Conservation, and since the formation of Natural England (2006 – 2010) he was Marine Advisor in the Chief Scientist’s Team. Throughout this period he has created, led or played a prominent leading role in key marine conservation initiatives in the UK, Europe and at global levels.

Some of his major achievements over the last 25 years include:

  • Devising the overall approach to implementation of the Habitats Directive in marine areas around the UK(1992 – 1996), which resulted in the legal and policy framework now seen today in the UK, the approach through which the UK statutory nature conservation agencies discharge their obligations under the Habitats Regulations, and the framework for site-based advice on conservation objectives and damaging activities on marine Special Areas of Conservation (1992 – present).
  • Originating and project managed the UK marine SAC LIFE project (1996 – 2001) that provided the funding to start up the implementation of the Habitats Directive in the marine environment, both in the UK and more widely throughout Europe.
  • Originating, obtaining funding for, and project managing the Britain, Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands cooperative programme on the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity (MarClim) (2001 – 2005). This played a leading role in re-establishing the UK policy need for long-term marine data sets.
  • Playing a leading role in the development of the IUCN recommendations arising from the 2004 World Parks Congress on marine and coastal protected areas, particularly on the statement for the need to greatly increase the areas within MPAs by 2012 to include at least 20 – 30% of each habitat type in strict protection.
  • Leading input to the UK Government’s Review of Marine Nature Conservation (RMNC) (1999 – 2004) which resulted in the adoption of his spatially-nested framework for delivery of marine conservation in the UK. The marine landscape approach he advocated has now resulted in the mapping of seas around the UK. Much of this RMNC work gave the basis for the UK Marine Act passed by Parliament in 2009.
  • Making substantive input to developing thinking on the application of the Ecosystem Approach (2002 – 2006), both through state of the art reports on applying the concept (2004 & 2005), and by working for the European Commission as their rapporteur on the Ecosystem Approach, as part of the development of the EU Marine Thematic Strategy (2002 – 2005), for which he also provided special advice to the European Commission. This resulted in the creation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
  • Part-time seconded to the Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Strategy Unit as marine environmental advisor for the fishies enquiry ‘Net Benefits’ (2004), and also providing input and review to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s enquiry into UK fisheries ‘Turning the Tide’ (2009).
  • Creating the concept and playing a leading role in the UK Marine Climate Change Impact Partnership (2005 – present) – this includes devising the Annual Report Cards and Ecosystem Linkages Card used to report and explain marine climate change impacts in the UK and also, in 2010, Climate Smart Working to help champion marine adaptation work.
  • Co-originating Google Ocean (Google Earth 5.0 with 3D navigable oceans) and formally appointed to Google’s Council of Advisors to develop this new product. Simultaneously led the development of new technologies now integrated in to Google Earth for multimedia visualisation of marine protected areas worldwide, alongside the launching of Protect Planet Ocean, a new integrated portal for NGO, science and government partners worldwide on ocean conservation. This site now contains the award-winning Official MPA Blog.
  • Developing the end-user (Reference User Group – RUG) approach to enhancing the role of marine science into policy for IMCO2 (Defra and DTI-funding research on the Implications of CO2 in the marine environment) and since 2008 for EPOCA (European Project on Ocean Acidification – EU FP7 funded and currently the largest piece of work in the world on ocean acidification). The latter group is now expanding to become the Ocean Acidification RUG serving EU, German and UK research programmes with enhanced links to the USA Administration and science communities. This is the largest grouping of research work on ocean acidification in the world. He led the production of two global policy guides (in five languages): Ocean Acidification: The Facts (2009), Ocean Acidification: Questions Answered (2010), and Ocean Acidification: The Knowledge Base 2012. Co-led the successful creation of the new $1m plus International Coordination Center on Ocean Acidification now being established in Monaco.
  • Since 2006 Dan has led the strategic development of the marine protected area work for IUCN. Formed into the Global Plan of Action (published autumn 2008) this has, for example, provided the focus for significant advances on protection efforts for the High Seas, on invigorating actions on marine World Heritage
    , on MPA data and analysis, on the IUCN categories system, on management effectiveness and on the marine climate change agenda. Alongside this he has helped champion relationships with major players such as National Geographic and published influential Opinion Editorials in the New York Times and International Herald and Tribune.
  • Dan led the technical advice for IUCN on the development and implementation of Sylvia Earle’s TED wish (part of the TED prize she was awarded in 2009) to better protect the 99% of the ocean outside MPAs through the new concept of ‘hope spots’. This included the development and mapping of an initial series of ‘hope spots’ as well as the landmark Mission Blue voyage in April 2010 and his championing of protection for the Sargasso Sea.
  • In 2009 Dan launched a new marine initiative for IUCN – Blue Carbon – recognising the role coastal marine habitats play in sequestering carbon. Three years in the making, his key report has triggered activities and interest around the world, giving renewed cause as to why conservation of habitats such as saltmarsh, mangroves, seagrass and kelp forests is so important.
  • Since 2009 he has been heavily involved with advising the energy sector through membership of Independent Review Panels – particularly on LNG developments and on the impacts associated with the petroleum industry in Yemen and Nigeria respectively.
  • In 2010 Dan was delighted to give patronage to the HMS Beagle Trust to help support and promote a new era of ocean education and exploration through the construction of a new-build ocean going facsimile of the famous vessel that carried Darwin on this voyages of exploration.
  • In 2011 Dan brokered a new relationship between IUCN and the America’s Cup in support of IUCN member activities by brining forward a host of new opportunities to engage the yachting community on the event’s legacy of ocean conservation


Examples of Other Positions Held (2000 – 2013)

Over the years Dan has held a large number of other positions that have enabled him to lead and shape marine conservation efforts for the ocean:

  • Member of the three-person expert external review committee, appointed by the United States Government, to assess and advise on progress by the USA, Israeli and Jordanian Governments on the Red Sea Marine Peace Park, under the Israel/Jordan Peace Accord (2001 – 2003).
  • Seconded to the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit to provide marine conservation advice on the UK Fisheries Project, which seeks sustainable solutions to the marine fisheries crisis (June – October 2003).
  • Evaluator to the Marine Institute in Ireland on their National Development Plan (2000 – 2006) and marine conservation advisor on the development of the science and innovation strategy for Ireland.
  • Member of the Reference User Group for the DG FISH-funded 4 year programme COST-IMPACT (2000-2004).
  • Rapporteur for the European Commission on the Ecosystem Approach, as part of the development of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2002 – 2005)
  • Chair of the Reference User Group for the UK Government-funded research on Surface Ocean Acidification and environmental aspects of carbon sequestration IMCO2 (2005 – 2007)
  • External examiner to the University of London (2004), and external examiner on coastal and ocean policy, and European Masters in Water Management for the University of Plymouth (2005 – 2009).
  • Member of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory Science Advisory Council for (2006 –
  • Member of the IUCN WCPA Steering Committee (2006 –
  • Member of the UK Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership Steering Group (2006 –
  • Member of the UK (JNCC) Interagency Climate Change Forum (2006 – 2007)
  • Member of the ICRAN Global Socioeconomic Monitoring Initiative (SocMon) Advisory Committee (2006 – 2010)
  • Member of the University of Oxford Wadham Sustainability Forum (2007)
  • Member of the Alderney Wildlife Trust Scientific Advisory Panel (2007 –
  • Member of Google’s marine Council of Advisors & special advisor on MPAs to Google (2007 –  2010)
  • Visiting lecturer WildCRU, Oxford (2007 – 2011)
  • Member of the International Governing Board for the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) (2007 – 2010)
  • Member of the Marine Biological Association’s Oceans 2025 Programme Advisory Board (PAB) (2007 – 2009)
  • Member of the Steering Committee for the first International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC), held in early spring 2009 in Washington, D.C. (2007 – 2009)
  • Member of the Steering Committee for the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands (2007 –
  • Member of IUCN’s WCPA World Heritage Advisory Committee (2007 –
  • Chair, Ocean Acidification Reference User Group (2007 –
  • Visiting lecturer, Exeter University (2008 –
  • Non-executive Member of the Programme Advisory Board for NERC’s £120 million Oceans 2025 programme (2008 – 2011)
  • Member of the Steering Committee for the 2nd International Marine Protected Areas Congress held in Washington DC, May 2009 (2008 – 2009)
  • Member of IUCN technical advisory team on Sylvia Earle’s TED wish ‘to change the world’ (2008 –
  • Member of the IUCN Dark Skies Advisory Group on light pollution and protected areas (2009 –
  • Member of the Advisory Board for EU FP7 funded project, KnowSeas (Knowledge-based Sustainable Management for Europe’s Seas) (2009 – 2012)
  • Non-executive Board Member of the UK Marine Science Coordination Committee, with responsibility for NGO liaison and the development and implementation of the Communication Strategy for marine science in the UK (2009 –
  • A member of the Board of Director of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (charitable foundation) (2009 –
  • Member of the Planning Committee for Third Symposium on The Ocean in a High-CO2 World (2009 – 2012)
  • External examiner to the University of York (2010 – 2012)
  • Member of Council of the Marine Biological Association of the UK (2006 – 2009, and 2010 – )
  • Member of the Governing Board of the Savannah Ocean Exchange (2010 – 2012)
  • Member of the Advisory Panel of the QICS project (Quantifying and Monitoring Potential Ecosystem Impacts of Geological Carbon Storage). This will quantify the ecological impact of CO2 leakage in shallow sediments, seafloor biota and in the water column from a controlled release experiment (2010 –
  • Member of the science and conservation advisory panel for the Naked Oceans online radio programme (2009 – 2012)
  • Member of the Yemen LNG Independent Advisory Panel (2009 – 2012)
  • Member of Pew Fellows Advisory Committee for the USA-based Pew Charitable Trust (2011 –
  • Member of the IUCN WCPA Search Committee handling nominations for Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas (2011-2012)
  • Member of Independent Advisory Panel on Remediation and Rehabilitation of Biodiversity and Habitats of Oil Spill Sites in the Niger Delta (2012 –
  • Advisor to the Green Development Initiative (2013 –
  • Member of the Joint Working Group between the IUCN WCPA-SSC Joint TaskForce and the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (2013 –