Conservation & Science

Making strides for ocean health at the Our Ocean Conference

For nearly 20 years, Monterey Bay Aquarium has worked to shift global seafood production in more sustainable directions—because fishing and aquaculture, done the wrong way, can do great harm to the ocean and ocean wildlife. What started as the Aquarium’s consumer-focused Seafood Watch program has blossomed to engage major seafood buyers, producers and governments in seafood-producing countries around the world.

More recently, the Aquarium has stepped up to address another growing threat to ocean health: a tide of plastic pollution.

Our Ocean BaliThe global impact of our work on both fronts took several steps forward this week at the international Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia—in ways that will be felt in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Since the inaugural conference in 2014, Our Ocean has brought government officials, business leaders and NGOs together to make measurable commitments that will improve ocean health. This year, the Aquarium is a part of four commitments: two to make our global seafood supply more sustainable, and two to reduce the use of ocean-polluting plastic.

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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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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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We Are Still In for the ocean

The week of September 10, people from around the world are gathering in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. Convened by the State of California, the Summit brings 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. As part of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s climate commitment, we’re moving to green our own business operations. Here’s how:

Monterey Bay Aquarium has announced a new set of climate commitments: By 2025, we will achieve net-zero carbon emissions and will transition 100 percent of our vehicle fleet to renewable power.

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The Aquarium has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

“We know that climate change is the single greatest threat to ocean health, and to all humankind,” said Margaret Spring, chief conservation officer and vice president of conservation & science for the Aquarium.

Margaret made the announcement on the stage of the “We Mean Business Action” platform hosted by We Are Still In in San Francisco during the Global Climate Action Summit.

We Are Still In is a coalition of more than 3,500 U.S. businesses, cities, universities, cultural institutions, health care organizations, faith groups, states and tribes that committed to climate action in keeping with the 2015 Paris Agreement, after the federal government announced plans to withdraw from the historic global climate accord.

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Straw Woman: Our California policy expert breaks down the Straws On Request bill

This month, we’re asking Aquarium visitors and social media followers in California to support the Straws On Request bill—and join the movement to combat ocean plastic pollution. We sat down with Amy Wolfrum, our California Ocean Conservation Policy Manager, to discuss the bill and how it connects to the Aquarium’s larger ocean conservation mission.

UPDATE 9.20.18We did it! The California Legislature passed the Straws On Request bill, AB 1884, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law. Beginning January 1, 2019, dine-in restaurants across the state will provide a plastic straw only to customers who ask for one.

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California Ocean Conservation Policy Manager Amy Wolfrum

What’s the Straws On Request bill?

California Assembly Bill (AB) 1884, sometimes called the Straws On Request bill, would require that dine-in, full-service restaurants across the state provide straws only when customers ask for them. Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon introduced the bill in response to a growing body of science showing that plastic pollution is a real problem for our planet—especially the ocean.

Why is plastic such a problem for the ocean?

It’s estimated that nearly 9 million U.S. tons of plastic enters the global ocean each year. That’s like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute! And if people around the world don’t make changes, the rate of plastic flowing into the sea is expected to double by 2025.

Plastic can now be found in almost every marine habitat on Earth—from polar ice to deep ocean trenches. Marine animals are harmed by plastic pollution in two ways: when they accidentally eat it, and when they become entangled in it.

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Trump Administration’s Ocean Policy puts short-term economic gain over long-term ocean health

On June 19, the Trump Administration issued an executive order revoking the 2010 National Ocean Policy established by President Obama. The order also creates a new National Ocean Policy that shifts the focus of ocean resource management from stewardship and sustainability to oil and gas development and national security.

“The President’s executive order undermines our ability to sustain ocean and coastal resources over time for the benefit of this and future generations of Americans,” says Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “The new policy places too much emphasis on short-term economic gain over long-term ocean health and prosperity.”

For more than 30 years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has inspired conservation of the ocean. In light of the President’s executive order, we will redouble our efforts in Monterey and beyond—with businesses,  elected officials and international leaders—to address the top threats facing the ocean today, advancing science-based solutions for a sustainable future.

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March for the Ocean on World Oceans Day weekend

M4O-DATEToday, thousands of people wearing blue will form a human wave in Washington, D.C.—and in cities  around the world—during the first March for the Ocean.

It’s a show of solidarity for the global sea that unites us, and on whose health our survival depends. Participants are marching to oppose offshore oil and gas drilling, help protect coastal communities from rising seas and other climate disasters, and end the flow of plastic pollution from land to sea.

March for the Ocean is organized by the Blue Frontier Campaign and supported by over 100 partner organizations, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In California, supporters will march in San Francisco and clean up a beach in Playa del Rey. Click here to find an event near you.

If you can’t attend a march in person, you can join the livestream at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time / 1:30 p.m. Eastern; speak up on social media and tag #MarchForTheOcean; and wear blue. To learn more, visit www.marchforocean.com.


Featured image: Rose Atoll National Marine Monument. Photo by Ian Shive/USFWS via CC BY-NC 2.0. This image was cropped.

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