Ocean conservation leaders are working across the globe to take on the most challenging problems facing the ocean, starting at a local level. Yet, they often lack the support they need to be successful. MCAF aims to ensure these conservation leaders have the financial and professional resources to achieve key ocean conservation gains and the platform to share their work.

The Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF) is a microgranting program that addresses critical needs in the marine conservation field, including funding for urgent, time-sensitive projects and support for early-stage, entrepreneurial projects led by emerging conservation leaders in developing countries. Since it was founded in 1999, MCAF has supported researchers gathering key data on threatened and endangered animals; aided grassroots leaders in engaging and educating communities through local conservation projects; and supported efforts to offer long-term protection for marine species and habitats.

What is MCAF?

MCAF strives to support ocean conservation leaders in ways that go beyond grant-making. We seek to build enduring relationships with our grantees and offer professional support through connecting them with the expertise of Anderson Cabot Center scientists and a network of their peers. We work to promote and magnify the impact of our grantees’ work through the New England Aquarium’s public platforms, including education programs for youth and the public. We bring selected grantees to the New England Aquarium for week-long immersive fellowships where they meet with our scientists and share their work with audiences in the Aquarium community and greater Boston.

MCAF has been instrumental in strengthening our work in marine conservation. By providing small grants, MCAF has allowed us to implement projects that can achieve broad impact and later be scaled in time.
- MCAF Fellow Kerstin Forsberg, Founder and Director of Planeta Océano

Through these strategies, we strive to ensure that our grantees have the support they need to remain impactful leaders in ocean conservation over the long term, and that their challenges and successes will inform future efforts and inspire and energize the next generation of ocean conservation leaders.

[IMG] Members of an MCAF program pose with a sea turtle on a beach.
An anti-poaching patrol poses on the beach with a sea turtle. Photo courtesy: Sea Turtles Forever.

Recently Funded Projects

  1. Evaluation of the status of the endangered Indus river dolphin

    In spring 2017, a team from WWF-Pakistan conducted a survey of the endangered Indus river dolphin, a global priority species of freshwater cetacean in Pakistan. The hopeful findings of the survey, which was led by Hamera Aisha with technical support from Gill Braulik, Ph.D., suggested that the number of dolphins continues to rise. The surveys, conducted every five years by WWF-Pakistan, build local capacity for sound scientific monitoring of the population of dolphins and guide future conservation interventions.

  2. Involving artisanal fishing communities, village youth, and state agencies in sea turtle conservation in western Ghana

    The organization Wildseas, led by MCAF Fellow John Flynn, works with artisanal fishermen in Ghana to secure the release of sea turtles incidentally captured in their nets. Through the “Safe Release” program, Wildseas has saved the lives of nearly a thousand turtles in a few years. In addition, Wildseas works with fishing village youth who patrol beaches nightly during the nesting season to protect sea turtles and eggs from poachers and conducts education programs for local children.

  3. Conservation and ecological research of sawfishes in Mexico

    Ramon Bonfil, Ph.D., founder and director of Océanos Vivientes, is using state-of-the-art technology (drones, satellite tagging, and environmental DNA analysis) to locate possible aggregation sites of largetooth and smalltooth sawfish, identify essential habitat, and study the movements and behavior of both species. Virtually no information exists for these species in Mexico, and it is urgently needed if resource managers and decision-makers in the Mexican government are to design proper conservation policy. Dr. Bonfil and his team are also engaging local communities around areas where sawfish still exist in order to ensure the effective preservation of their habitat.

Learn more about MCAF projects on our blog or by exploring this interactive map.

Map of MCAF Projects

Support and Funding Process

  1. Support

    MCAF is generously supported by the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, New England Biolabs Foundation, and individual donors. The MCAF Fellows Program is supported in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

  2. MCAF Funding Process

    MCAF grants range from $1000 to $10,000. We give priority to time-sensitive projects in developing countries, those focused on science-based solutions to pressing conservation problems, those that build local capacity for conservation, and those that are aligned with the priorities of the Anderson Cabot Center. Highest priority for funding is given to applicants from developing countries.

    MCAF proposals are reviewed on a rolling basis by an advisory committee made up of scientists from the Anderson Cabot Center and leading NGOs from around the world. The committee seeks to ensure that MCAF funds the initiatives with the greatest potential to have a meaningful conservation impact.

    For funding inquiries, please send a paragraph about your proposed project along with an approximate budget and timeline to MCAF Program Chair Elizabeth Stephenson at estephenson@neaq.org. We will then advise as to whether we would like to invite a full proposal.

Meet the MCAF Fellows

Since it was founded in 1999, MCAF has supported more than 150 projects in more than 50 countries and across six continents. Through its fellows program, MCAF brings select grantees to the New England Aquarium to strengthen their connections with Anderson Cabot Center researchers, build their capacity to convey the significance of their work, raise awareness of their work among peers and the public, and share inspiration and enthusiasm with Aquarium youth audiences.

  1. Anna Oposa MCAF

    Anna Oposa
    2019 Fellow

    Co-Founder, Executive Director,
    Chief Mermaid
    Save Philippine Seas 

  2. Nelly Kadagi MCAF Fellow 2019

    Nelly Kadagi, Ph.D.
    2019 Fellow
    Director of Research,
    African Billfish Foundation

  3. John Flynn MCAF

    John Flynn
    2018 Fellow
    Founder and Conservation Director,
    Wildseas, Ghana

  4. Flo mcaf

    Florencia Vilches 
    2018 Fellow
    Fullbright Scholar
    Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas

  5. Tom Mcaf

    Tomas Diagne
    2017 Fellow

    Founder and Director,
    African Chelonian Institute, Senegal
    Rolex Associate Laureate

  6. Daniel MCAF

    Daniel Fernando
    2017 Fellow
    Co-Founder and Director,
    Blue Resources Trust, Sri Lanka
    Associate Director, Manta Trust 


    Lucy Keith-Diagne, Ph.D.
    2017 Fellow
    Founder and Director,
    African Aquatic Conservation Fund, Senegal
    National Geographic Explorer, Pew Marine Fellow

  8. AndresLopez mcaf 2017 fellow

    Andrés López
    2017 Fellow
    Co-Founder, Misión Tiburón
    Costa Rica

  9. Kerstin Forsberg
    2016 Fellow

    Founder and Director,
    Planeta Océano, Peru
    Rolex Laureate

  10. Ruth Leeney, Ph.D.
    2016 Fellow

    Founder and Director,
    Protect Africas Sawfishes
    National Geographic Explorer

  11. Shah Selbe
    2016 Fellow

    Founder and Director,
    Conservify, U.S. National Geographic Fellow
    Emerging Explorer

  12. Asha de Vos, Ph.D.
    2015 Fellow

    Founder and Director,
    Oceanswell, Sri Lanka
    Pew Marine Fellow
    National Geographic Emerging Explorer

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