The Monterey Bay Aquarium is the most admired Aquarium in the United States, a leader in science education and a global voice for ocean conservation through active programs in marine science and public policy. Everything we do works in concert to protect the future of our ocean.


The mission of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.

Vision: Inspiration and Action

Our mission is more urgent than ever before. Worldwide, the ocean is in peril, its wildlife and habitats threatened by an ever-increasing pace of human activity. We risk losing vital natural systems that sustain us all and are a source of livelihood and inspiration for humanity. We believe that humankind can turn this tide. We envision a world in which the ocean is healthy, and people are committed to protecting the integrity of Earth's life-sustaining natural systems. To make this vision a reality, we help people know more, care more and do more on behalf of the oceans. Our exhibits and programs introduce people from all walks of life to the wonders of the marine world, from Monterey Bay to the vast oceans beyond. As a leader in ocean conservation, we extend our impact by reaching beyond our walls to inspire the public and policymakers to act on behalf of the ocean.


In the late 1970s, a group of marine scientists affiliated with Stanford University and Silicon Valley crafted a vision for what was to become the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium. They imagined a small Aquarium devoted to the diversity and beauty of life in the waters just offshore, built inside a derelict cannery from the industrial heyday of the sardine packing era immortalized by author John Steinbeck.

After six years of planning and funded by a $55 million personal gift from David and Lucile Packard, their vision became reality on October 20, 1984. The Aquarium opened its doors in a state-of-the-art building on the ocean’s edge, on Monterey’s historic Cannery Row.

Ours was a different mission – not one of commerce, but a commitment: to inspire conservation of the ocean.

We were the first major public Aquarium in the world with permanent exhibits devoted to the marine life of our home region: the waters of Monterey Bay and California’s Central Coast. The exhibits we created helped spark public interest that led to designation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – the largest in the continental United States.

We were also the first Aquarium with a living kelp forest; the first to create large-scale jellyfish exhibits; the first to successfully exhibit young great white sharks and return them successfully to the wild; the only Aquarium outside Japan to exhibit ocean sunfish, yellowfin and bluefin tuna; and a pioneer in the creation of changing special exhibitions that are now common in the Aquarium world.


We are working more effectively than ever on behalf of ocean health by integrating science-based conservation research with policy initiatives and partnerships that are making a difference. In the face of growing threats to ocean health, we have adopted a new strategic approach that focuses our conservation and science efforts on critical issues affecting the future of the ocean, including steps to reduce plastic pollution, promote sustainable seafood globally, address climate change, and protect key species such as sea otters, sharks and Pacific bluefin tuna.

From our exhibits to our global research and policy initiatives to education programs designed for teachers, students and underserved communities, we are working to turn the tide for ocean conservation.