Our 33rd year has been remarkable in many ways, and the last day of the year brought with it a humbling honor. Monterey Bay Aquarium was saluted by colleagues with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), for the depth and scientific rigor of our work to safeguard the health of the ocean.
“This is quite an anniversary present!” Aquarium Chief Operating Officer Cynthia Vernon told WAZA delegates gathered in Berlin, Germany as she accepted the second-ever Conservation Award presented by the WAZA, an association of 300 member zoos and aquariums from six continents.
A special relationship
“We’ve long recognized that public aquariums enjoy a special relationship with our visitors,” she added. “The people who come through our doors are here to be inspired by remarkable ocean animals, and to share a memorable time with the people they care about. In the face of great and urgent threats to ocean health, we—all of us in the international aquarium community—have more opportunities than ever to make a difference. And we have more responsibility than ever before to use the trust we’ve earned from the public to do all we can on behalf of the ocean.”
Monterey Bay Aquarium is driven by our mission, “to inspire conservation of the ocean.” Recognition by our peers is validation of the many ways in which we’ve expanded our vision for what that means—from informing our visitors to educating tomorrow’s ocean leaders. From participating in scientific collaborations to taking policy action and engaging with partners around the globe. We’ve evolved from inspiring ocean conservation to taking action.
We’ve long encouraged other aquariums to step up as ocean advocates.
People expect us to act
“Based on the public’s response to our work, I remain convinced of the value of broadening how we as public aquariums define ourselves,” Executive Director Julie Packard told delegates to the International Aquarium Congress nearly a decade ago. “Aquariums can achieve powerful conservation results through outreach and advocacy, and in fact, the public expects us to do so. By listening closely to our audiences, we can build more meaningful and lasting relationships with them and, in turn, strengthen our institutions, our field and our conservation impact.”
We began when our doors opened in 1984, with a commitment to create innovative living exhibits, to conduct field research programs aimed at understanding the ocean’s living systems, and to offer education programs that inspire and shape new generations.
Today, our work encompasses all that and more—including a growing engagement in the ocean policy arena: in our community, in California, across the United States and around the world.
Doing more for the ocean
WAZA, as the voice of a global community of conservation-minded zoos and aquariums, encourages its members to do more to protect wildlife and wild places. In conferring the Conservation Award, it cited the breadth of our work on behalf of ocean protection and in building public awareness of ocean issues.
“The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Conservation and Science programs tackle some of the most critical issues affecting ocean health, including pollution, plastic and illegal fishing,” said Dr. Manfred Niekisch of the Frankfurt Zoo, who chairs the WAZA Conservation and Sustainability Committee. “The Aquarium brings decades of expertise and relationships in ocean science, policy and markets to the task, and it’s a trusted source of ocean information to make a difference globally—among policymakers, the business community and with individuals.”
The committee specifically called out our work in support of sustainable global fisheries and aquaculture, and our growing engagement in ocean policy where, he said, we “inspire and inform government decision makers to take science-based action on behalf of ocean health.”