Taking Action for the Global Ocean

With your help, the Aquarium has become a respected advocate for the global ocean. Our expertise in science, policy, markets and public engagement helps us enlist new partners, take action and make a difference—in California, across the nation and around the world.

Whale breaching

Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary Turns 25

When the Aquarium opened, we opened a window into the rich and diverse life of Monterey Bay. That awareness reached millions and sparked a movement that led to the creation of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 1992. Now, 25 years later, the bay is an international success story—a vibrant example of what can happen when we responsibly manage and protect our living ocean. Over the years, Aquarium members and donors have supported our work to create marine protected areas in California and beyond. You're also defending the sanctuary and other marine protected areas from proposals to scale them back or open coastal waters to offshore oil drilling.

We continue to work to keep the bay healthy as part of an unmatched community of ocean research institutions. Our scientists study the sanctuary's marine life and ecosystems to inform management policies that we can apply here and elsewhere. We're tackling threats from plastic pollution and climate change. Through the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust, we're supporting sustainable local fisheries. Each year, nearly 2 million Aquarium visitors learn more of the bay's story—and they too are stepping up to play their part for the ocean.

"The health of the global ocean holds the key to our survival."

- Julie Packard
Executive Director

Sunset view of Monterey Bay from the Aquarium

Protecting National Monuments

The United States has led the way in creating marine sanctuaries and national monuments. In 2017, we mobilized support to turn back a federal proposal that would open millions of now-protected acres to offshore oil and gas drilling. You responded, decisively: nearly 10,000 individuals, scores of businesses, chef and restaurant partners, and zoo and aquarium colleagues nationwide spoke out. The fight continues, and we'll continue to defend much-needed protections for our blue parks.

March for Science

Elevating Ocean Issues

From Silicon Valley to the United Nations, we brought ocean issues to the fore. More and more, policymakers and the public seek our advice to shape a future in which ocean ecosystems can thrive.

March for Science

On Earth Day 2017, we joined people around the world and stood up for the critical role science plays in protecting the health of the ocean.

Aquarium staff marched in North America and in Europe, from Washington, DC and San Francisco to Brussels and Amsterdam. We spoke in Monterey and Silicon Valley, and encouraged people to become citizen scientists. Even our resident African penguins joined in with a "March of the Penguins for Science," waddling through our galleries as a Facebook Live audience of 4.3 million cheered them on.

UN Ocean Conference

In June, the United Nations hosted its first Ocean Conference—a global gathering focused on protecting the marine resources vital to human survival. Our expertise earned us invitations to speak on critical topics: seafood sustainability, plastic pollution and ocean acidification. At the conclusion of the conference, the 193 member nations unanimously adopted a call "to act decisively and urgently [for ocean health]."

We have distributed


million Seafood Watch consumer guides to date


Businesses partner with Seafood Watch


Conservation partners advance our sustainable seafood initiatives

Global Seafood & Aquaculture

As a sustainable seafood leader, we've worked for nearly 20 years to energize consumers, engage with businesses and drive change in the way seafood is caught and farmed internationally.

In 2017, we launched an ambitious new partnership in Southeast Asia with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Secretary of State John Kerry. Together, we'll work with producers and governments to improve environmental sustainability of seafood production throughout the region.

Working conditions of people who produce our seafood are equally important. With our partners Liberty Asia and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, we created a new tool that helps businesses identify the risk of slavery and other human rights abuses in their supply chains—and take steps to address these problems.

From the United Nations to the UK and Japan, we were invited to share insights about fisheries policy and business leadership in sustainability.

Tackling Ocean Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution threatens ocean wildlife and ecosystems around the world. It's a priority issue for us. Our unique set of skills—in science, policy, markets, communications and public engagement—brings together all the elements that will move society away from single-use plastic and toward innovative alternatives.

We reach millions of visitors through our exhibits and daily programs like the presentation with our Laysan albatross, Makana. We engage teachers and teens at our annual Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit. We're contributing to the science by documenting the impacts of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems, and advancing policy and market-based solutions here in California and across the nation.

Working with colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, our science team is learning how ocean animals transport plastic particles through food webs.

And we're now leading a growing Aquarium Conservation Partnership that uses its collective voice to reach millions and support policies across the United States that reduce the flow of plastic into the ocean, lakes and rivers. In 2017, we launched a national #InOurHands campaign encouraging people to learn more, and to say no to single-use plastic. All 22 member aquariums stopped using disposable plastic straws and shopping bags, and pledged to phase out plastic beverage bottles by late 2020—modeling business practices that others can follow. At the Aquarium, we've eliminated nearly all single-use plastic from our cafe and restaurant, and work with our gift shop vendors to reduce plastic packaging.

Young people—like Aquarium Teen Conservation Leader Shelby O'Neil—championed successful efforts to reduce single-use plastic. Shelby has enlisted more than 1,000 businesses, plus individuals and governments, to say no to plastic straws and take a No Straw November pledge. In Carmel, California, fifth grade students persuaded city officials to ban single-use plastic at city restaurants. Carmel joins Seattle, Santa Cruz, Malibu and Santa Cruz County in a growing movement to find ocean-friendly alternatives.

  • Almost

    9 million

    tons of plastic enters the global ocean each year

  • 90%

    of all seabirds will have ingested plastic by 2050

  • Teen Conservation Leader Shelby O'Neil won support for her No Straw November message from the California Coastal Commission

  • “The public trusts aquariums to do what's right for the health of the ocean and for ocean wildlife.”
    — Julie Packard

  • 100 million

    plastic bags are used and discarded in the United States each year

  • The solution to ocean plastic pollution is in our hands


A Pacific Bluefin Tuna Victory

Pacific bluefin tuna have been struggling for decades, as their numbers dropped below 3 percent of the level that existed before the onset of industrial-scale fishing after World War II. Now, with contributions from our science, policy and sustainable seafood teams, they may be on the road to recovery.

We deployed 2,000 tracking tags on young-of-the-year Pacific bluefin tuna near Kochi, Japan

We've told the Pacific bluefin story for more than 20 years, as the first aquarium in North America to have them on exhibit—connecting tens of millions of visitors with these amazing animals. It took years of effort by our research and policy experts, working with allies around the world, before international fisheries bodies agreed in the fall of 2017 to support a science-based recovery plan that will bring these prized fish back to sustainable levels. It was "a historic moment for a remarkable species, which is so important to the ocean ecosystem and to coastal communities around the Pacific Rim," said Margaret Spring, Aquarium chief conservation officer.

The Aquarium has long been a leading voice for the science-based management of Pacific bluefin tuna The Aquarium has long been a leading voice for the science-based management of Pacific bluefin tuna.
Our staff experts are engaged in scientific research of Pacific bluefin tuna in Monterey and around the world Our staff experts are engaged in scientific research of Pacific bluefin tuna in Monterey and around the world.

As a leading voice for science-based ocean conservation, we've long raised concerns when multi-national fisheries authorities ignored warnings about population declines, and failed to adhere to scientific advice about how to manage the recovery of Pacific bluefin tuna. In 2017, we published new research that underscored the need for a different approach, and we advised the United States at international negotiations on its management.

We also extended our partnership with fisheries scientists from the National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries in Japan, tagging and tracking record numbers of bluefin tuna—nearly 2,000 juvenile and adult fish in 2017.

In advance of key management meetings, we mobilized nearly 200 chefs on five continents who urged their governments to adopt a meaningful, science-based recovery plan. We also coordinated with former Secretary of State John Kerry to urge swift international action.

There's more to be done before Pacific bluefin tuna recovery is a success, and we're staying engaged. We've finalized plans for 2018 to tag tunas in all three regions where they're found: Japan, the United States and Mexico, and New Zealand. We remain active in fisheries management bodies and we'll continue our work with culinary leaders.

Annual Review 2017 (PDF)

  • Credits
  • © Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation