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Marine Conservation Institute Founder Who Shaped Marine Conservation Retires

Seattle, WA—December 17, 2015—Today Marine Conservation Institute Founder and Chief Scientist Dr. Elliott A Norse announces his retirement after 37+ years of shaping the science and policy of conservation. “Happily,” said Marine Conservation Institute President Dr. Lance Morgan, “he will continue to guide the institute as a member of our Board of Directors.  We believe that he—along with a handful of his great heroes and friends—is the world’s catalytic thinker in marine conservation.”

Dr. Norse received his PhD in marine geographical ecology before beginning his conservation career in 1978 as a marine biologist at the US Environmental Protection Agency. Then, 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 helped Pt. Reyes-Farallones, Channel Islands, Grays Reef and Looe Key National Marine Sanctuaries win designation.

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 which informed countless conservation efforts. In 1996, Dr. Norse founded Marine Conservation Biology Institute (now Marine Conservation Institute) to develop this new, interdisciplinary scientific discipline to provide better information on conserving marine biodiversity. With Dr. Les Watling he found that bottom trawling is very much like forest clearcutting, except that bottom trawling is much, much more extensive globally, and is repeated more often. 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. Dr. Norse later co-founded the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition to protect the world’s international waters from bottom trawling and led the expert 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 as the Society of Conservation Biology’s International Marine Conservation Congresses. With coauthor Dr. Larry Crowder, Dr. Norse assembled Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea’s Biodiversity (2005).

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 central role in catalyzing the very large marine protected area movement, starting with protection of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands when President Bush designated Papahānaumokuākea (2006) and Pacific Remote Islands (2009) Marine National Monuments. President Obama expanded the area of Pacific Remote Islands MNM 6-fold in 2014.  Now many other countries and organizations are trying to outdo America in safeguarding enormous areas of ocean, as Dr. Norse envisioned years ago.

Dr. Norse has dedicated years to a global initiative that will prevent mass marine extinction from impacts including fisheries, climate change and ocean acidification. The science-based solution he conceived—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—aims to catalyze strong protection for at least 20% 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.

Since its first steps, 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, benefitting both marine life and people. As we had envisioned, marine conservation is still growing quickly, with new graduate programs and training at universities around the world, thanks in large part to Dr. Norse’s pioneering efforts.

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

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 Instituteemail:

office: 707-5317643

mobile: 707-217-8242