What We Do

  • Blue Parks

    Ocean protection is crucial for the health and sustainability of our blue planet. The Blue Park Award is a science-based, collaborative and international effort designed to catalyze strong protection for at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. As an organization that seeks to secure protection for wild ocean places, the majority of Marine Conservation Institute's programs support Blue Parks.

    The scientific criteria for designating Blue Parks and incentivizing ocean protection are reviewed yearly to ensure each is based on up-to-date, scientifically sound methods. In 2017, we awarded our first Blue Parks: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. We accept nominations for new Blue Parks and always welcome outside recommendations.

    Partner support is critical to the success of Blue Parks. Strong partnerships for the initiative are growing in different sectors, including marine science, conservation, tourism and foundations. Join the initiative as a Blue Parks partner or donate to support its bold blue vision today!

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  • The Atlas of Marine Protection & SeaStates Reports

    The Atlas of Marine Protection, or MPAtlas.org, is the world's most comprehensive marine protected area database. We update this conservation tool to provide the most up-to-date and accurate accounting of marine protection on the water, all while expanding our collaborations with conservation organizations and conducting new research. Our work on MPAtlas.org strongly supports the Global Ocean Refuge System and assists in recognizing the world’s most effective marine protected areas. 

    Our Atlas of Marine Protection team releases the SeaStates US Report every year as a review of US marine protection levels. These annual updates ensure it is the most rigorous, quantitative, and topical accounting of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters of US coastal states and territories. First published in 2013, the reports are a tool to measure and evaluate American progress towards effective marine protection.

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  • Fighting for our Waters and Coasts

    We work in the National Ocean Protection Coalition to raise awareness of dangerous anti-ocean policies and fight for our public waters. From attacking the marine national monuments to pushing for expanded oil drilling in U.S. waters, the Trump administration is a threat to our blue planet. Since President Trump announced drastic cuts to two Utah National Monuments, we have worked hard to show that an attack on one national monument, marine or terrestrial, is an attack on all.

    Even as the Trump administration threatens our progress in the U.S., there are signs of hope internationally. The United Nations recently began the process of creating a conservation treaty for the High Seas, which has, until now, been largely unprotected and overexploited. As an active member of the High Seas Alliance and Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, we will continue to advocate for an effective treaty and lasting protections for our oceans. 

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  • Deep Sea Coral Habitat Modeling

    Marine Conservation Institute scientists use predictive habitat modeling as a tool to detect and characterize ecologically important areas of the oceans that warrant protection. We work with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand to model the distributions of deep-sea corals, sea stars, and feather stars on the Louisville Seamount Chain. These seamounts are home to an impressive array of benthic life, and modeling the spatial distributions of these animals provides the scientific basis for identifying Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) and protecting them from deep-sea bottom trawling. We will continue our work to better understand the distribution of deep-sea species in order to leverage greater protection of our planet’s incredible marine life. 

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  • Protecting California's deep-sea habitats and marine life

    We founded the California Seamount Coalition to advance protection for the seamounts, ridges, hydrothermal vents and other deep-sea habitats off the California coast. To secure protections for these unique ecosystems, we are working with our coalition partners, including Surfrider Foundation, WILDCOAST, Mission Blue and many others, to raise awareness of the outstanding biodiversity in these areas. We are excited to continue our research on these deep-sea wonders, develop new educational and outreach materials for them, invite more partners to join the coalition, and campaign for their protection. 

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    Stopping Pirate Fishing

    Pirate fishing, known more formally as Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, is occurring around the globe. Fishing boats operating outside the bounds of agreed upon management are sucking up ocean life in places off limits to fishing or in amounts that are unsustainable and not allowed. Marine Conservation Institute fights to pass U.S. and international legislation to strengthen laws against this crime. Our Global Ocean Refuge System also considers the monitoring and enforcement efforts of marine protected areas when evaluating nominated sites.

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  • Local Solutions to Ocean Acidification

    Marine Conservation Institute is mapping out areas that could become new salt marsh habitat as sea level rises in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties in the US state of Washington. Management options would include protecting new marsh areas as “blue carbon areas,” areas that have more vegetation and therefore absorb carbon dioxide. These areas could potentially lessen the local effects of ocean acidification. Salt marshes are some of the most effective naturally occurring carbon capturing ecosystems and are therefore a critical mitigation and adaption tool in efforts to combat climate change. By removing excess carbon dioxide, these areas may mitigate the local effects of ocean acidification and increase the quality of neighboring marine habitats.