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.

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 Oceano

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.

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 the spring of 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, PhD suggested that the dolphin’s numbers continue to rise. The surveys, conducted every five years by WWF-Pakistan, build local capacity for sound scientific monitoring of the dolphin’s population 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 their “Safe Release” program, Wildseas has saved the lives of nearly a thousand turtles in a few years’ time. 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 also conducts education programs for local children.

  3. Conservation and ecological research of sawfishes in Mexico

    Ramon Bonfil, PhD, 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 to 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, the 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-$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 Anderson Cabot Center’s priorities.

    MCAF proposals are reviewed on a rolling basis by an advisory committee made up of scientists from the Anderson Cabot Center and leading NGO’s 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 the 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 140 projects in more than 40 countries and across 6 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. 2018 Fellows

    John Flynn  (2018)
    Co-founder and Director, Wildseas, Ghana

    Florencia Vilches (2018)
    Researcher, Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas

  2. 2017 Fellows

    Tomas Diagne (2017)
    Founder and Director, African Chelonian Institute, Senegal
    Rolex Associate Laureate

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

    Lucy Keith-Diagne, PhD (2017)
    Founder and Director, African Aquatic Conservation Fund, Senegal
    Pew Marine Fellow

    Andres Lopez (2017)
    Co-founder and Director, Mision Tiburon, Costa Rica

  3. 2016 Fellows

    Kerstin Forsberg (2016)
    Founder and Director, Planeta Oceano, Peru
    Rolex Laureate

    Ruth Leeney, PhD (2016)
    Founder and Director, Protect Africas Sawfishes
    Sawfish Conservation Officer, IUCN

    Shah Selbe (2016)
    Founder and Director, Conservify, U.S.
    National Geographic Fellow and Emerging Explorer

  4. 2015 Fellows

    Asha de Vos, PhD (2015)
    Founder and Director, Oceanswell, Sri Lanka
    Pew Marine Fellow
    National Geographic Emerging Explorer


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