As divers, it is a given that we love the ocean and all the marine life in it. However, as the days pass, many of the famous and loved dive sites slowly decline in health and beauty. The flow of waste, destructive fishing practices and plastic pollution destroy the marine environment and threaten the existence of numerous marine species.
Luckily, recent years have seen a proliferation of nonprofit groups working on both a public and political level to save and protect our oceans. One of the best ways you can contribute to marine conservation is by joining one of these groups and donating to the cause. Here is a list of what we think are some of the best marine/ocean conservation organizations.
Oceana is the largest organization in the world solely devoted to marine conservation. It was established in 2001 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Oak Foundation, Marisla Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Since its founding, Oceana has achieved hundreds of concrete policy victories for marine life and habitats. As part of its campaigns, Oceana is involved in efforts to end major sources of ocean pollution such as oil, mercury, aquaculture and shipping emissions. In addition to that, the organisation also campaigns for the protection of vulnerable places in the oceans, including the Arctic, the Aleutian Islands, the Mediterranean and Chile’s Juan Fernandez Islands, among others.
Ocean Conservancy is another leading advocacy group working for the protection of special marine habitats, the restoration of sustainable fisheries and for reducing the human impact on ocean ecosystems. Founded in 1972, the organization was initially known as the Delta Conservancy and later the Center for Environmental Education and the Center for Marine Conservation before receiving its current name. In order to save our oceans, the group focuses on educating the public and advocating for policy changes for maintaining vibrant ocean wildlife. One of Ocean Conservancy’s best-known efforts is the International Coastal Cleanup program. The annual cleanups bring millions of volunteers all over the world together to collect and document the trash littering their coastline.
Project AWARE Foundation is the organization working specifically with scuba divers across the globe to protect underwater environments. Focused on the critical issues of Shark Conservation and Marine Debris, Project AWARE empowers thousands to work together for a clean, healthy and abundant ocean planet. If you want to take part in one of the organization’s campaigns, you can explore the current Action Map to find the upcoming events or even create your own event. You can also adopt a dive site to engage in ongoing, local protection and monitoring of a particular area, start a fundraiser with Project Aware or donate to the organization.
The nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is a showcase for the habitats and sea life of one of the world’s richest marine regions. In addition to that, the organization coordinates marine conservation and research programs. The Aquarium is helping to save species like sea otters and white sharks, and giving a voice to urgent ocean issues at the local, state, national and international levels. The Aquarium's Conservation and Science programs are tackling some of the most critical issues affecting ocean health. The Aquarium conducts research in the fields of population biology and ecology of sharks, bluefin tuna and sea otters. Finally, through their Seafood Watch program, the organization helps consumers and businesses choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean.
As the name suggests, the MMF focuses specifically on research and conservation for threatened marine-megafauna species, such as sharks, rays, marine mammals and turtles. Founded in 2003, the organization initially was working with the large population of marine megafauna found along the Mozambican coastline. In recent years, however, MMF researchers have expanded their efforts worldwide. The MMF’s current research focuses on species-level population ecology and conservation biology. The organization also works to improve the management of existing marine protected areas (MPAs) and develop effective, long-term conservation strategies to protect and restore key habitats. On a regional level, it is a trusted conservation leader, empowering local communities to manage marine resources sustainably.
Although somewhat controversial, this organization definitely deserves attention. Founded by Paul Watson, a former member of Greenpeace, in 1977, under the name Earth Force Society, the organization is now best known for obstructing Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean. Sea Shepherd aims to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. They use innovative direct-action non-lethal tactics including scuttling and disabling whaling vessels, intervening in seal hunts and throwing bottles of foul-smelling butyric acid onto whaling vessels at sea, among others.
The Coral Reef Alliance works with communities around the world, helping to solve coral reef conservation challenges. Through collaboration with fishermen, government leaders, divers and scientists the organization leads holistic conservation programs that improve coral reef health and resilience and are replicated across the globe. The majority of the work is done in four critically-important reef regions of the world - Fiji, Hawaii, Indonesia and Mesoamerican Region. Globally, CORAL is launching a new era of reef conservation that facilitates coral adaptation to a changing climate and expands the scientific understanding of coral conservation. The Alliance’s signature initiatives include: Healthy Fisheries for Reefs, Clean Water for Reefs, Intact Reef Ecosystems and Science of Adaptation.
The Nature Conservancy is one of the oldest and most respected conservation organizations in the world. Established in 1951, the organization has over 1 million members and works to protect ecologically important lands and waters at the largest scale. As for the marine conservation in particular, the Nature Conservancy operates more than 100 of such projects globally. Some of them include work to create sustainable fisheries, while protecting and restoring fish habitat; mapping ocean wealth and incorporating the gathered information into decision-making; improving the health of coral reefs; protecting the coastlines, etc.
The World Wildlife Fund is another one of the world’s leading conservation organizations. It works in 100 countries and is supported by more than one million members in the United States and close to five million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature. Among the WWF’s top priorities in the area of marine conservation are working with fishers, fishing companies and scientists around the globe to understand and meet sustainability standards; working with organizations around the world toward the goal of expanding the extent of mangrove cover around the world 20% by the year 2030; and safeguarding the Arctic through advancing climate-smart, sustainable development, and securing permanent protection for ecologically critical areas.
The Greenpeace is a global organization working to stop environmental crimes, using non-violent creative action. The main goals of the group are to protect biodiversity in all its forms, prevent pollution and abuse of the earth’s ocean, land, air and fresh water, end all nuclear threats, promote peace, global disarmament and non-violence The organization works towards several issues pertaining to the marine environment in particular. With its vast networks across the world, Greenpeace argues big corporations to reduce their plastic footprint to end the flow of plastic into our oceans. In addition, the organization is also engaged in addressing unsustainable industrial fishing practices, climate change and ocean acidification.
Do you know any other great organizations we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below.