Conservation and Science Programs

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is deeply committed to making a difference on critical ocean conservation issues and continues to make big waves to protect the ocean – in California, nationally and around the world.

The Aquarium’s coordinated science, policy and communications efforts focus on four key areas: Pacific Ocean wildlife and ecosystems, Global Fisheries and Aquaculture, Plastic Pollution and Climate Change and Ocean Acidification.

Pacific Ocean Wildlife and Ecosystems
Sea otters, sharks and tuna are among the most beloved and inspiring animals at the Aquarium but are also among the most vulnerable in the wild. Aquarium researchers and policy advocates are committed to helping ensure their long-term survival, and that of the ecosystems on which they depend. Currently, three Aquarium research programs focus on the population biology and ecology of these species.

  • Sea otters: The Aquarium’s Sea Otter Program is the only one of its kind in the world. For more than 30 years the program has worked to understand threats facing the southern sea otter and the impact the threatened species has on the health of coastal ecosystems. California needs sea otters’ help to maintain coastal resilience in the face of climate change. The Aquarium contributes to southern sea otter population recovery and coastal resilience through innovative work to advance scientific knowledge; to rescue, rear and reintroduce stranded sea otter pups to the wild; to improve management; and to raise public awareness of sea otters’ vital role in shaping healthy coastal ecosystems.
  • Bluefin tuna: Monterey Bay Aquarium is a global leader in research and conservation policy for Pacific bluefin tuna, a species that has been severely overfished down to less than three percent of its historical population.  The Aquarium is a key contributor to Pacific bluefin tuna population recovery through international research collaborations, policy engagement with management bodies and influence on global seafood markets with the goal of putting Pacific bluefin tuna on a path to recovery. 
  • Sharks: The ocean is losing over one million sharks annually to human activities including high market demand for shark products, bycatch in commercial fisheries and poor fisheries management. Aquarium research scientists contribute to shark and ray conservation, and ocean ecosystem recovery, through a rigorous and growing scientific research program, with particular emphasis on white shark research and population monitoring. In concert with its research efforts, the Aquarium raises awareness of shark conservation issues and promotes policy action to safeguard shark populations, by the U.S. government and nations around the world.

Global Fisheries and Aquaculture
Fishing and aquaculture practices have profound impacts on ocean health and on human communities around the world. It’s estimated that fish account for one-sixth of global humanity’s animal protein. Humans depend on the ocean’s bounty but are outpacing the ocean’s capacity to keep up with the growing demand. Since its inception in 1999, the Aquarium’s science-based Seafood Watch program has been in the business of helping people make better seafood choices for a healthy ocean, giving major seafood buyers the tools they need to leverage their purchasing power in support of sustainable fishing and aquaculture practices, helping seafood producers improve the sustainability of their fishing and aquaculture practices, as well as informing national and international policy. Today, Seafood Watch science underpins the global sustainable seafood movement. Through partnerships with major businesses and through consumer awareness initiatives, Seafood Watch is creating market demand for sustainable seafood and sparking a move to more sustainable fishing and aquaculture operations worldwide.

Plastic Pollution
Plastic is in every part of the ocean, flowing from land to sea at a rate of 8 million metric tons each year and threatening marine wildlife and mankind’s well-being. The clear solution is to reduce demand for single-use plastic products and support innovative alternatives. Through education, science policy and markets-based approaches, the Aquarium is raising awareness of the problem, encouraging consumer to adopt eco-friendly habits and championing business action and public policies that reduce plastic pollution at the source.

Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
The ocean is the heart of Earth’s climate system. Climate change and ocean acidification pose grave threats to ocean health, and represent the greatest environmental challenges of our times. Together with ocean acidification, climate change is affecting ocean health and wildlife, and human survival in profound ways. The ocean can, over time, recover from the impacts of our emissions of heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide. Grounded in scientific research, the Aquarium is raising public awareness of the threats to ocean health, and advocating for policies that reduce carbon emissions and promote clean energy alternatives.