In 2010, representatives from nearly 200 countries adopted the United Nations’ Aichi Biodiversity Targets in a bid to stem the rapid loss of marine biodiversity. The countries committed to protecting at least 10 percent of the oceans by 2020. Current levels of protection amount only to about 4 percent, but less than 0.5 percent of the world’s oceans are no-take zones. This calls for increasing awareness and action on developing protected areas that are well-managed, ecologically representative, and well-connected.

Outcomes

For more than a decade, the Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund has provided support and collaboration to small-scale, high-need projects around the world that link local communities, protect highly vulnerable species and habitats, and promote sustainable use of oceans. Through small grants to scientists and grassroots organizations, we have been able to respond to time-sensitive and high-priority marine conservation needs. MCAF support helps catalyze groundbreaking conservation, rescue, and rehabilitation work in remote corners of the world, with a particular focus on developing funding that can have a disproportionate impact.

From saving river dolphins in Pakistan to creating a marine mammal stranding network in Iran to protecting manta rays in Peru and Sri Lanka, MCAF-supported projects have proven effective on a small scale to solve indigenous problems that have wide-scale implications for ocean and marine animal health. Future work will increase our focus on building the capacity of grantees, including developing a network of MCAF Fellows that fosters mentoring and professional growth, leverages additional funding sources to increase the sustainability of projects, and develops enduring relationships to increase long-term impacts—with a particular focus on the development of junior scientists doing pioneering work in developing countries.

Work by the Aquarium in the Phoenix Islands in the central Pacific Ocean led to the creation of a Marine Protected Area the size of California. Aquarium staff were integral and involved in every aspect of establishing the protected area, including hiring legal expert consultants and drafting legislation, finding funding for and developing a nongovernmental organization to sustainably finance the protected area, drafting the management plan and facilitating management activities, drafting the area’s nomination as a World Heritage Site, and acting as a co-finance partner and Project Management Group member of a $1 million Global Environment Grant. The Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium will continue its research in the area.

The Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life will continue to build capacity for marine conservation to protect highly vulnerable species and habitats in the developing world from the impacts of overfishing, habitat loss, and climate change.