Maria Damanaki is the Global Managing Director for Oceans at The Nature Conservancy. She leads a global team focused on transforming how the world manages its oceans, with a focus on investing in natural infrastructure, such as coral reefs and wetlands, to reduce climate risks and sustain ocean health; promoting sustainable fisheries management and legal fish trade; and managing and protecting ocean and coastal habitats in ways that continue to provide benefits to nature and people.
She believes that the only path to lasting, tangible results for a sustainable blue economy is collaboration across public, private and civil sectors – at both global and local levels – while always respecting the needs of both nature and people.
With over 30 years of public service in Europe, Maria most recently served the past four years as European Union 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. In just the next five years, the continuation of her fisheries policy efforts could lead to 15 million more tons of fish in the sea, 30 percent more jobs and the equivalent of over US $2 billion in additional revenue. 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 the equivalent of US $750 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.
Maria 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, Maria 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.