Conservation & Science

California leaders make progress for the ocean

This year, the California Legislature got things done for our state’s beautiful ocean and coast — and we were a part of it. The Aquarium spoke up in support of science-based legislation for a healthy ocean, and several of these bills were signed into law. These important new policies will:

  • Improve youth access to our state parks,
  • Leverage nature’s most powerful tools against climate change, and
  • Cut back on waste by encouraging reusable containers at restaurants and food trucks.

Here’s a closer look at all the state accomplished.

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Climate change: A triple threat for the ocean

The ocean headlines these past few months have been unsettling. 

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Now is the time for climate action. It’s not too late; we still have a choice about the kind of future we want to leave today’s children.

A just-released scientific report connects these and a host of other ocean changes with human activities that take place largely on land. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate marks the first time that the IPCC has written a stand-alone report on the marine realm. It presents a detailed account of the increasingly severe consequences of climate change for the ocean, its trillions of creatures and, ultimately, ourselves. 

The report makes clear that to protect the ocean, we must first reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we must also reduce ocean stress, caused by overfishing and pollution, so the ocean is healthy enough to weather the changes already underway.

“The bottom line is that we need the ocean. And right now, the ocean needs us,” said Julie Packard, executive director of the Aquarium. “It’s not too late to take courageous climate action and safeguard the ocean from further damage.” 

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Field studies of ocean acidification

Sometimes, research has to venture out of the lab and into the wild. That’s the basis for a long-term Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) project to study how the ocean’s changing chemistry will affect marine life.

A shallow-water Free Ocean CO2 Enrichment (FOCE) system in place near Hopkins Marine Station. Photo courtesy MBARI.

Ocean acidification is a change in seawater pH (and other elements of the ocean carbonate system) as the ocean absorbs excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This change will become more pronounced as people continue to burn fossil fuels.

“It’s important to try to get a better understanding of what impact that will have,” says George Matsumoto, senior education and research specialist at MBARI.

In a more acidic ocean, the minerals used to form calcium carbonate are less abundant, making it more difficult for marine species—from tiny sea snails to oysters and crabs—to build shells or skeletons. MBARI marine ecologist Jim Barry says researchers are working to understand the impact not just on individual animals, but also on broader ecosystems. Read more…

Honoring a new slate of California Ocean Champions

On March 19, 2019, hundreds of ocean advocates gathered in Sacramento to discuss ocean and coastal issues with state decision-makers during Ocean Day California. In the evening, the Aquarium hosted its tenth annual awards reception for about 200 state officials and legislators, their staff and ocean leaders from across the state. 

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Guests enjoy the spread by Tataki Sushi & Sake Bar, featuring Seafood Watch Best Choice fish and vegan sushi.

Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard presented four state legislators with our 2019 Ocean Champion Awards, honoring their significant contributions to California’s ocean and coastal leadership. The award is part of the aquarium’s work to inspire and inform government decision-makers to take science-based action on behalf of the ocean.

“California has become a beacon of hope for the nation, and for the world,” Julie said. “Our state is living proof that environmental and economic health are inextricably linked.”

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Leading the way in sustainable hospitality

The Monterey Bay Aquarium isn’t alone in its drive to inspire conservation and host visitors sustainably. Thanks to steps by the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau and others, the region is increasingly positioning itself as a leader in sustainable hospitality—and earning recognition for its commitment.

For visitors and local businesses, following sustainable practices has become a defining characteristic of Monterey County.

Building on the area’s unique advantages, like having the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in its backyard, the Aquarium is leveraging results far beyond its doors, says Public Affairs Director Barbara Meister.

“The Aquarium is well-known and recognized, so to the extent that we can help with messaging or bring other partners along—whether hotels that are reducing plastic use or restaurants that are serving Seafood Watch-approved species—all that bodes well for our mission,” Barbara says.

Local fisherman Jerry Wetle brings sustainably caught sablefish to area restaurants by working with the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust.

The multifaceted push marks the latest chapter in the area’s long history of working to protect its environmental assets, she says. In recent years, communities around Monterey Bay have opted to draw only renewable energy from the electric power grid, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust is helping fishing crews connect with regional restaurants to serve locally caught seafood.

International recognition

Last year, Monterey County became internationally ranked on the Global Destination Sustainability Index, which will help track its progress going forward. (Only three U.S. destinations have qualified, and Monterey County is the greenest of the three.)

The CVB has also partnered with Positive Impact, a global not-for-profit that works to foster sustainability in the events industry. And with Monterey’s newly renovated conference center working toward LEED Platinum certification, the region is increasingly enticing to corporate clients and event planners for whom sustainability is a priority. Read more…

Tackling climate change with a tasty plant-based menu

Fighting climate change, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Chef Matt Beaudin, should “taste amazing.”

With that in mind, Chef Matt and his team have designed a sumptuous—and almost entirely plant-based—menu to show just how delicious climate-friendly meals can be.

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Executive Chef Matt Beaudin gets creative with a seasonal, plant-based menu.

In developing the latest seasonal menu for the Aquarium Restaurant, Chef Matt wanted to both lower the carbon footprint of each dish, and to delight customers’ taste buds with new and enticing flavors.

“This menu takes forgotten ingredients and makes them the star of the show,” says Chef Matt, who sources a significant portion of the Aquarium’s food from Evergreen Acres farm in nearby San Benito County.

For the Aquarium, this winter menu is all about providing people with an opportunity to try something new—and to embrace the power we hold when deciding what to eat.

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Rising to the climate challenge: A call to courage, and action

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Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard introduces the ocean plenary at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

Many of us may be feeling discouraged by recent scientific reports about the pace and impact of global climate change.

In a video posted on the Aquarium’s website and social media channels, Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard is calling on concerned Americans to step up and get involved.

“Acting together, with courage, we can protect our beautiful, living blue planet,” Julie says. “I know we’re up to the task.”

Her message comes as world leaders gather in Poland for COP 24 climate talks, and as new scientific reports confirm the steep toll that climate change is already taking on human lives. Those reports include the National Climate Assessment from the U.S. government, a similar assessment from the State of California, and the just-released United Nations’ Emission Gap Report for 2018.

The latest polling shows a majority of Americans agree with the scientific consensus about climate change—and are ready to take courageous action.


Learn more about the ocean impacts of climate change, and what you can do to make a difference.

 

A surge of ocean action in Sacramento

The 2018 California legislative session brought great news for the ocean! The Aquarium supported seven bills and two resolutions this year—and they all became state law.

These new state policies will:

  • Protect our coast from federal offshore oil and gas drilling
  • Restrict several common single-use plastic products that pollute the ocean
  • Continue to conserve California’s marine protected areas, and
  • Encourage new, more sustainable fisheries practices

Here’s a bill-by-bill breakdown.

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Julie Packard: It’s time for courageous climate action

It’s not easy to find good news  when talking about climate change. The latest scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spells out in no uncertain terms the magnitude of the challenges we face—and the urgency of action.

Executive Director Julie Packard welcomed delegates to the ocean plenary at the Global Climate Action Summit.

It’s true that global scale climate trends continue to be daunting. But the pace of solutions is accelerating. So, in that way I’m among the optimists (along with the newest Nobel laureate in economics). As a global society, we know we must do to get on a sustainable course. We’re making progress faster than ever, and we have more tools to do the job. Many of these tools were created in Silicon Valley, and in other hubs of innovation around the world, from Redmond, Washington to Mumbai, India.

Last month, I left the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco feeling energized. Monterey Bay Aquarium played a key role in putting the ocean on the Summit agenda, and it was clear people finally recognize that a healthy ocean is critical to avoiding catastrophic climate change. The question now is: Do we have the will to make it happen?

California and the West Coast are leading the way to a clean-energy future. Photo by BLM / Tom Brewster Photography

Judging by the progress being made on the U.S. West Coast, and the business and government commitments announced at the Summit, I think the answer is yes. That’s especially apparent here on California’s central coast. Our region has become the global nexus for ocean education, innovation and impact. Read more…

Changing minds on climate change

The week of Septemer 10, people from around the world gathered in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. Convened by the State of California, the Summit brought together leaders—representing nations, states, cities, companies, investors and citizens—to celebrate climate action, and step up their ambitions to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement.

Monterey Bay Aquarium took part in the Summit to call for protection of the ocean, our most powerful tool to mitigate, and adapt to the impacts of, climate change. But what about the everyday work for climate solutions—the conversations we have with our families, neighbors, friends and colleagues? Aquarium Conservation Interpreter Allison Arteaga shares tips on how to make your next climate conversation a productive one.


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The Aquarium’s mission is to inspire conservation of the ocean. Each of us has a role to play through our everyday conversations.

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a mother and her teenage son encounter an abalone at a touch pool. They’ll learn how they can help give shell-building animals like this one the stable ocean chemistry they need to support entire marine food webs.

A retired couple watching a green turtle glide through the water at the Open Sea will discover what they can do to protect the next generation of sea turtles, which need stable beach temperatures to nest successfully. And a group of young adults mesmerized by the swaying of a kelp forest will be inspired by the ways in which, like the kelp itself, local communities are now getting their energy from the sun in order to protect the ocean.

Conversations like these have power. At the Aquarium, we believe talking about climate change is an important part of the solution. That’s why we’ve been working for more than a decade on effective strategies to engage the public, particularly our 2 million annual visitors, in conversations about climate science and solutions.

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