Ocean Conservatory, The

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Ocean Conservatory, The

"The will to understand, conserve, and protect ocean life is at the very core of the Ocean Conservatory's mission. To fulfill this mission, the Ocean Conservatory seeks to: protect marine ecosystems, prevent marine pollution , protect endangered marine species , manage fisheries for conservation , and conserve marine biodiversity." Since its founding in 1972, the Ocean Conservatory (formerly the Center for Marine Conservation) has worked toward these goals. The endangered species the group helps to protect include, among many others, whales , dolphins , seabirds, seals and sea lions , and sea turtles .

Over 110,000 Ocean Conservatory members nationwide volunteer their time in many different ways, including writing to Congress asking for support of marine conservation, and organizing or participating in beach cleanups across the country. In 1988, for example, more than 16,000 people took part in beach cleanups in Florida and Texas. This number grew and in 2000, 850,000 people cleaned over 20,000 mi (32,187 km) of coast. More than 100 countries have helped the United States in this effort to clean the beaches.

Because of human actions and the ever-changing environment , the Ocean Conservatory's goals constantly grow and change. Over the years they have challenged formidable opponents, including Exxon. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Ocean Conservatory participated in the cleanup and forced Exxon to step up the rescue and rehabilitation of sea otters (Enhydra lutris ) and other mammals and birds injured by the accident.

Another important Ocean Conservatory activity is the Marine Habitat Program. Through this program, the Ocean Conservatory has played a pivotal role in establishing six marine sanctuaries in the United States (there are only eight total), as well as in other countries. One of these, the Silver Back Humpback Whale Sanctuary, protects humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae ) near the Dominican Republic. Established in 1986, it was the world's first whale sanctuary.

Research is an important component of all Ocean Conservatory programs. The group's ongoing research and advocacy has resulted in the adoption of stricter regulations on commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission. The Ocean Conservatory has also helped to pass federal and state regulations requiring the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on shrimp nets to help protect thousands of endangered sea turtles. Turtles have also benefited from the Ocean Conservatory's research in artificial lighting. The group convinced counties and cities throughout Florida to control the use of artificial light on the state's beaches after proving that it prevents turtles from nesting and lures baby turtles away from their natural habitat.

In 1988 the Ocean Conservatory established a database on marine debris and, subsequently, the group created two Marine Debris Information offices, one in Washington, D.C. and one in San Francisco. These offices provide information on marine debris, especially plastics , to scientists, policy makers, teachers, students, and the general public. While many of the Ocean Conservatory's projects are exemplary, one has received so much attention that it has been used as a model by other environmental groups, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The California Marine Debris Action Plan, which went into effect in 1994, is a comprehensive strategy for combating marine debris, and a collaborative effort of the Ocean Conservatory and a wide network of public and private organizations. In 2000 President Clinton enacted the Oceans Act which set up an Oceans Commission to review and revise all policies dealing with the protection of the ocean and the coast. The most recent win for the Ocean Conservatory came in 2001, when Tortugus (200 square nautical miles) was established as the largest no-take marine reserve near Key West, Florida.

[Cathy M. Falk ]



The Ocean Conservancy, 1725 DeSales Street, Suite 600, Washington, D.C. USA 20036 (202) 429-5609, Email: [email protected], <http://www.oceanconservancy.org>