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Marine Conservation Institute Celebrates The Career Of Dr. Elliott Norse

[Seattle, Washington – May 6, 2016] Today, Marine Conservation Institute celebrates the retirement and remarkable career of Dr. Elliott A. Norse, founder of Marine Conservation Institute. After 37+ years of shaping the science and policy of conservation, Dr. Norse will continue as a member of the Board of Directors supporting and guiding Marine Conservation Institute’s mission to secure strong protection for the oceans’ most important places.

Dr. Carl Safina, a renowned ecologist and conservationist, recounts his experience with Dr. Norse, “Elliott was there at the beginning of the conservation groups’ involvement in ocean conservation work. He’s always been a thought-leader, solution-oriented, and almost dismayingly upbeat and positive about prospects for winning on big items such as trawling bans and protected areas”.

“Happily,” said Marine Conservation Institute President Dr. Lance Morgan, “he will continue to be a part of our family and provide us with his expertise in marine conservation and advise us on our major initiatives.

Dr. Norse received his PhD in marine geographical ecology from the University of Southern California before beginning his conservation career in 1978 as a marine biologist at the US Environmental Protection Agency. After that, as the staff ecologist in President Carter’s White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), he was lead author of the 1980 book chapter that first defined saving biological diversity as conservation’s overarching goal.  At CEQ Dr. Norse also aided in creating a number of ocean sanctuaries: Pt. Reyes-Farallones, Channel Islands, Grays Reef and Looe Key National Marine Sanctuaries.

Dr. Norse’s first 2 books were on conservation of US forests.  But to shape the agenda of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, he assembled Global Marine Biological Diversity: A Strategy for Building Conservation into Decision Making, which called for a new science focused on conserving marine life and informed countless conservation efforts. In 1996, Dr. Norse founded Marine Conservation Biology Institute (now Marine Conservation Institute) to develop a new, interdisciplinary scientific field – marine conservation biology – to provide better science and policy related to conserving marine biodiversity. With Dr. Les Watling he found that bottom trawling is very much like forest clearcutting, except that bottom trawling impacts a much larger area globally, and is repeated more frequently. This study put bottom trawling on the world’s conservation agenda. Now local governments, states, countries and even the United Nations are curtailing this appallingly destructive practice. To protect the world’s international waters from bottom trawling Dr. Norse helped to found the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and led an international ecological/economic analysis of the sustainability of deep sea fisheries.

Dr. Norse also organized the world’s 1st and 2nd Marine Conservation Biology Symposia, which continue today as the Society of Conservation Biology’s International Marine Conservation Congress. With coauthor Dr. Larry Crowder, Dr. Norse assembled Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea’s Biodiversity (2005), an oft used textbook for marine science and policy students.

Dr. Norse often said, “Ideas are good but acreage is better.”  He was a pioneering champion for protecting the seas’ most important places, and played a key role in catalyzing the recent movement to strongly protect very large marine reserves.

The global movement really started with protection of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, when President Bush designated Papahānaumokuākea (2006) and Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll (2009) Marine National Monuments. President Obama expanded the area of Pacific Remote Islands MNM in 2014, to encompass an area nearly 7x the size of Washington State. More recently, several other countries have continued this trend and are now competing with one another to safeguard enormous areas of the ocean. These large reserves now include the UK’s Pitcairn Island, Chile’s Easter Island,  Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands and Palau’s protection of 80% of their waters (to name just a few). These areas are a promising step towards protecting the 30% of the world’s oceans that is necessary to prevent the devastating loss of ocean biodiversity.

In 2013, Dr. Norse provided the impetus for a new global initiative that will prevent mass extinctions from overfishing, climate change and ocean acidification. The science and market-based solution he conceived—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—aims to catalyze strong protection for at least 30% of each ecosystem in every geographic region of the oceans by 2030. GLORES will thereby become the world’s leading strategy for safeguarding diversity and abundance of marine life for us and future generations.

Thanks to the pioneering work and foresight of Elliott marine conservation biology has come of age; marine science programs around the world are now applying ecological and socioeconomic insights to protecting life in the sea. As he had envisioned, marine conservation is a vibrant and growing field, with new graduate programs and training available at universities around the world.

Dr. Norse is a recipient of the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, the Nancy Foster Award for Habitat Conservation from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Brooklyn College’s 2008 Distinguished Alumnus and the 2012 Chairman’s Medalist from the Seattle Aquarium awards. He is former President of the Society for Conservation Biology’s Marine Section. However, far more important is what his thinking, integrity and boundless enthusiasm will do for Earth, where 99% of the planet’s living space is in the ocean.

Today we applaud and deeply thank Elliott Norse for his passion and zeal for conservation and for a career of unparalleled excellence.

We would like to give a big thank you to our sponsors Seattle Aquarium, John Davis and MARE (Marine Affairs Research and Education), the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology,, Laurel Krizel, Raby Law Office, Oran Young & Gail Osherenko and Marine Conservation Institute’s Board of Directors for their fantastic support.


About Marine Conservation Institute 

Marine Conservation Institute is a team of highly-experienced marine scientists and environmental-policy advocates dedicated to saving ocean life for us and future generations. The organization’s overarching goal is to help the world create an urgently-needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—a strategic, cost-effective way to ensure future diversity and abundance of marine life. For more information, please go to:

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For more information, media and bloggers only, please contact:

Dr. Lance Morgan, President, Marine Conservation Institute


office: 707-5317643

mobile: 707-217-8242