Ms Damanaki will lead a global team focused on transforming how the world manages its oceans, including sustainable fisheries management, large-scale protection and restoration of coral reefs and other ecosystems, coastal resilience, and a first-of-its-kind mapping and quantification of the full value of the world’s oceans to people.
“Maria will bring great leadership to our Global Marine team, The Nature Conservancy, and the conservation field overall," said Mark Tercek, President and Chief Executive Officer at The Nature Conservancy.
"Our work will greatly benefit from Maria's extensive experience in marine affairs, fisheries and international policy, as well as her strong diplomatic skills and global network."
With over 30 years of public service in Europe, Damanaki most recently served as EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Under her leadership, the Commission was able to bring fish populations back to healthier levels – from as few as five sustainable stocks in 2010 to up to 27 today – which could lead to 30 per cent more jobs and €1.8 billion in additional revenue by 2020.
She also introduced and implemented the Blue Growth agenda for Seas and Oceans in Europe, which aimed to create 1.6 million new jobs and €600 billion in revenue by 2020 in sectors such as coastal tourism, ocean energy, and marine biotechnology. In addition, she established legislation to create a common framework for Marine Spatial Planning to map and better manage maritime activities across EU countries.
Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends. To date, TNC and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 480,000 square kilometers worldwide—an area larger than Sweden. The organization employs over 4,500 people and works in more than 35 countries around the world. Damanaki will be based out of the London office.
''Joining TNC is a challenge and opportunity for me. Oceans and seas have always been the background of my life, from my birth on a Mediterranean island to my mandate as a European commissioner,” said Ms Damanaki.
“We can and have to do more for the conservation of what formulates 71 per cent of the planet’s surface and the deepest memory of earth and human existence. I am looking forward to contributing to the results that a science based approach can deliver.''
“Through her 30 years of public service in Europe, Maria has consistently demonstrated a commitment to sustainability and a willingness to work across the public, private and civil sector to accommodate the needs of both nature and people,” said Marianne Kleiberg, Interim Managing Director for Europe at The Nature Conservancy.
“We are thrilled to have her join our organization and have her lead our global marine conservation efforts.”
Ms Damanaki previously served as a member of Greek Parliament for more than 25 years, and was the youngest-ever Member of Parliament when she was first elected in 1977. She became the first woman to lead a political party in Greece in 1990, preceded by being the first woman elected as Vice President of Parliament in 1986.
Born on the Greek island of Crete, Damanaki graduated with honors from the National Technical University of Athens with a Master of Science in chemical engineering. There, she played a leading role in the underground student opposition of the Greek military junta. She has authored four books on European issues, human rights, education and women’s rights.