Conservation & Science

Julie Packard: A bold vision for ocean health

Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard, who also sits on the board of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, offered a powerful vision of hope for the future of the ocean Friday morning at the third Our Ocean Conference convened by Secretary of State John Kerry  in Washington, D.C.

Julie Packard at Our Ocean 2016
Julie Packard at Our Ocean 2016

Julie shared the stage with other leading ocean philanthropists as she announced the Packard Foundation’s five-year, $550 million commitment to advance ocean science, protection and effective management. She held up Monterey Bay as an example of the transformation that’s possible in ocean health with an investment of time and energy to shape a thriving future for this vital living system.

For all their success in driving environmental improvements on land, foundations and philanthropists “over time we realized something was missing—the ‘other’ three-quarters of the planet, 99% of living space on Earth and the most prominent feature on this planet: the ocean,” Julie said.

Lunge-feeding humpback whales in Monterey Bay. Photo by Tyson Rininger
Lunge-feeding humpback whales in Monterey Bay. Photo by Tyson Rininger

Monterey Bay demonstrates—in dramatic fashion—what’s possible, she said. Its whales, sea otters and elephant seals were hunted to near-extinction, and the sardines that put Cannery Row on the map disappeared in “one of history’s most famous tales of fishery collapse.”

The wildlife is back, the bay’s ecosystems are robust, “Monterey Bay is now one of most studied pieces of ocean on the planet and California continues to be an incubator for ocean and climate solutions,” Julie said.

A success story of global significance

A year ago, BBC and PBS chose Monterey Bay for their first-ever live broadcast from the ocean. “They called Monterey Bay ‘a conservation success story of global significance,'” Julie said. “As we look across the globe, we see so many stories similar to Monterey Bay’s decline, while stories of recovery are not yet commonplace. We need to change that—and we can.”

Today, the bay is being considered for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

MBARI is a pioneer in developing new technologies to explore and understand the ocean. Photo courtesy MBARI.
MBARI is a pioneer in developing new technologies to explore and understand the ocean. Photo courtesy MBARI.

The Packard Foundation’s ocean funding will continue to draw on the values instilled by Julie’s father, HP co-founder David Packard: “Focus on the future, invest in people, take risks and support science-based solutions.”

It’s a vision that led to creation of Monterey Bay Aquarium as “a new kind of public aquarium with a new kind of mission—to inspire conservation of the ocean,” Julie said.

And it led to the establishment of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) to address what David Packard saw as “the lack of technology development for ocean science and our poor understanding of the deep sea and open ocean,” she added. “MBARI’s technology and discoveries are now front and center in building an understanding of human impacts on our changing seas.”

Ongoing support

Both MBARI and the Aquarium—especially the Aquarium’s respected, science-based Seafood Watch program—will receive continued support as part of the Packard Foundation’s $550 million ocean commitment, according to Carol Larson, the foundation’s president and CEO. Key areas of focus for the foundation include solving the problems of overfishing, unsustainable marine aquaculture practices, and habitat loss—because these problems have the greatest direct impact on the ocean and its biodiversity.

The foundation will continue its major grant program to mitigate climate change impacts (“the greatest long-term threat to ocean health,” Julie said, “and we’ll be directing our attention to ocean and climate issues as well.”

In all of its ocean work, “In the next five years we’ll be focusing on six countries: the United States, Mexico, Chile, Indonesia, China and Japan,” she said. “We believe these countries offer the most important opportunities for impact.”

Over the past half century, the Packard Foundation has invested over $1.6 billion to expand human understanding of the ocean and has worked with partners to improve its long-term health.

“My hope is that one day soon the transformative story of Monterey Bay becomes a common theme emerging from the many places our partners work. People have created the challenges we face and I know we have the ingenuity and drive to overcome them. I’ve seen what can happen when they do.”

Learn more about how the Aquarium is contributing to the future of the ocean.

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