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December 17, 2021

Antha Williams of Bloomberg Philanthropies joins Oceana’s Board of Directors

From left, Oceana Board Members Susan Rockefeller and Antha Williams are pictured with Maya Lin and Anita Conti at Oceana’s New York Gala fundraiser last October. Photo credit: Bob Rich


Antha Williams is one of Oceana’s newest board members. However, she is no stranger to Oceana. As the Environment Program lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies, Williams has been a leading force behind Oceana’s Save the Oceans, Feed the World campaign since the foundation began funding Oceana six years ago.  

“Oceana stands out as the only global organization dedicated solely to protecting our ocean, and it is uniquely aligned with the Bloomberg approach,” Williams said. “Neither of our organizations shy away from controversy, both support advocacy and hard-hitting litigation, and we applaud Oceana for standing up for the ocean community in court and through public campaigns.”  

A cornerstone of Bloomberg Philanthropies is, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” and Oceana shares that guiding principle. In 2014, Oceana became part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative, which has protected over 8 million square miles of ocean through a combination of evidence-based conservation and data-driven policies. Starting with work in Brazil, Chile, and the Philippines, the partnership expanded in 2018 to also include Oceana’s work in Peru and the United States.  

One current focus of the Vibrant Oceans Initiative is to protect corals that are most likely to survive the effects of climate change. If carbon emissions are not curbed, scientists predict that up to 90% of coral reefs will die by 2050 due to ocean warming and acidification. Williams said this bleak possibility makes it even more imperative to protect resilient reefs. Recently, thanks to support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and Sobrato Philanthropies, Oceana led an expedition to Panaon Island in the Philippines and is now campaigning to protect the area’s pristine reefs.  

The Vibrant Oceans Initiative is one of many programs under Williams’ direction. The Environment Program at Bloomberg Philanthropies leads U.S. and global efforts to fight climate change, drive the transition to clean energy, and preserve important ocean ecosystems.  

One top priority of both Bloomberg Philanthropies and Oceana is getting the U.S. to permanently ban offshore drilling. This is an especially timely goal, considering the devastating oil spill that occurred off the coast of California in October.  

“It’s frustrating that much of the Gulf of Mexico, and even parts of California, are already leased for drilling, which makes it harder to stop,” Williams said. “This is despite the fact that we are seeing the market move toward renewables and away from fossil fuels. In the end, we have to show that it’s possible to get off fossil fuels, to move to renewable power and electric vehicles, and to stop the flood of fossil fuels used to make plastics. The public wants it to happen, so I remain hopeful.”  

Prior to her leadership roles in philanthropy, Williams worked as a campaigner and organizer, directing large-scale voter protection efforts. It was through this experience that Williams said she learned the value of grassroots organizing, which informs her work to this day.  

“There’s lots of focus on lobbying for top-down change, which plays a key role, but we’ve seen just as much critical change occur from bottom-up, impassioned advocacy in communities on-the-ground, and we’re dedicated to supporting those efforts,” Williams said. “With environmental campaigns, we’re all about elevating the voices of local communities, which actually complements our national policy and advocacy work.”  

In addition to serving on Oceana’s Board, Williams also sits on the Board of Directors of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, European Climate Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, and Oceans 5. 

This interview appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Oceana Magazine. Read it online here.