Healthy and productive marine ecosystems are critical to sustaining food, jobs, and recreation for millions of people, as well as producing other intrinsic quality of life benefits. To have healthy ocean ecosystems, we need strong science-based fisheries management that eliminates overfishing and protects essential coastal and ocean habitats. Marine protected areas are also crucial for the conservation of natural and cultural resources and increasing the resilience of the marine environment.
To make sure that our nation takes the steps necessary to ensure a healthy and productive ocean, we need to develop an informed and engaged public. Prior research by The Ocean Project, and others, has shown that the public is interested in ocean conservation, expecting, trusting, and appreciating conservation information provided during visits to aquariums, zoos, and museums.
For more than a decade, we’ve been making strategic connections and steadily ramping up opportunities for aquariums, zoos, and museums – both individually and collectively – to engage on policy issues: from rallying support for federal appropriations through sign-on letters to joining with campaigns for marine protected areas in the US the last several years and also globally on protection of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. We’re now expanding our policy activities to help aquariums, zoos, and other non-traditional stakeholders get more involved in science-based fisheries policy. This initiative is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Ocean conservation is at an important juncture, with reauthorization to the nation’s primary law governing management of our fisheries, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. In addition, the Administration is currently considering the recommendations from the Secretary of the Interior to alter management and reduce boundaries of designated national marine monuments. The Ocean Project is collaborating with several ocean conservation groups to protect and strengthen the Magnuson-Stevens Act, to promote sustainable management policies that benefit the $141 billion domestic fishing industry.
We are looking forward to collaborating with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, and other key partners to help aquariums, zoos, and museums educate and engage their audiences on these important issues. By helping to increase staff knowledge, we plan to help them more actively engage in promoting healthy, sustainable marine ecosystems and science-based federal fisheries management issues. We will develop and test messages focusing on effective visitor engagement, develop pilot projects, conduct training sessions, webinars and develop other tools to support aquarium, zoo, and museum staff to engage and communicate the importance of ocean conservation and fisheries (and more effectively engage on other issues) with visitors, supporters, and the public.