SPRING 2016    /    ARCHIVE

Conservation & Science

A Model for Saving the Ocean

The health of the global ocean holds the key to our survival. Today, we're at a critical moment when decisions to address the threats of climate change and illegal fishing will shape the future of the ocean. We must act boldly so the ocean can continue to play the critical roles that enable life on Earth to exist.

That's what fuels the growing scope of our conservation and science programs. We know that when people do the right thing, the ocean is resilient and can recover from the insults we hurl its way.

Last fall, we celebrated an amazing California success story, in an extraordinary way, with television broadcasts of Big Blue Live across the United States and Great Britain. The programs put the spotlight on the incredible rebound of ecosystems and ocean animals that were, within our lifetime, on the brink of extinction.

People took action—and we made a difference.

Treaties in the early 20th century ended commercial hunting for sea otters and elephant seals. Commercial whaling ended in the 1970s. The massive Santa Barbara offshore oil disaster in 1969 catalyzed the biggest environmental movement our country has ever seen. Lawmakers enacted scores of landmark environmental laws: the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

They also created the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—the first body to recognize the interconnected nature of ocean and atmosphere.

California approved the Coastal Act and later the Marine Life Protection Act and Marine Life Management Act, managing coastal waters for the health of entire ecosystems.

We're confident that, by engaging together, we can secure the health of the global ocean.

In the 1990s, a bipartisan effort established Monterey Bay as the largest national marine sanctuary off the continental United States. In the past decade, California created the largest network of marine protected areas in the country, and federal fisheries rules put a priority on safeguarding the health of ecosystems that fish need to thrive.

The recovery of whales, dolphins, sharks and sea otters in Monterey Bay is cause for celebration. Big Blue Live shows us how much we stand to gain when we're good stewards of the ocean.

Many other ocean challenges need the same attention. We must end overfishing on the high seas, in waters beyond all national borders. The climate crisis threatens the health of the global ocean in ways we cannot fathom—with consequences we must avert.

Success will take concerted action, with involvement of citizens and government leaders, philanthropists and the business community. We've seen how collaborative leadership like this has made an enduring difference in the United States. We're confident that, by engaging together, we can secure the health of the global ocean.

This commentary was written by California Resources Secretary John Laird, former NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard and former Defense Secretary and Congressman Leon Panetta for our "Future of the Ocean" blog. Find more news about our Conservation & Science on our blog.

Download Shorelines Spring 2016 (PDF)
Download Shorelines Spring 2016 Member Calendar (PDF)

© Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation