10 Ocean Conservation Groups Making a Difference

These 10 organizations work tirelessly to protect the world’s oceans and all of the life they contain from overfishing, global warming and other threats.

Global fisheries are on the verge of collapse, global warming is raising ocean temperatures, coral reefs are dying at an alarming rate and runoff from farms and neighborhoods is fouling the seas with fertilizers and other pollutants. For Ocean Week here at EcoSalon, we want to show our love of oceans and how we can’t live without them – we need serious action to protect them from these threats and many more, and we need it now. Thankfully, we have these 10 inspiring ocean conservation groups that are influencing public policy, drumming up public support, researching solutions, and even going out there and stopping illegal activities that harm wildlife.

Blue Ocean Institute

The Blue Ocean Institute doesn’t just work to preserve the world’s oceans and all of the biodiversity they contain, it also aims to inspire a love for the ocean in all of us. Engaging the public with science, art and literature to foster a deeper connection with nature, the Blue Ocean Institute provides an invaluable reminder of what we’re trying to save in the first place. Founder Dr. Carl Safina believes that focusing on the positives rather than the negatives is more likely to inspire change. “When people defend their fishing, their fishing gets worse; when they defend their fish, their fishing gets good.”


The largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation, Oceana focuses on a limited number of highly specific campaigns that can achieve measurable outcomes, like reducing turtle death from scallop fisheries and petitioning retailers to stop selling unsustainable marine animal products. In addition to accepting donations that help them achieve these goals, Oceana enlists a vast team of “e-activists” referred to as “Wavemakers” who send out letters and petitions in support of conservation initiatives.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Not one to shy away from controversy, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) takes bold action in its fight to protect oceans and marine life. Starring on Animal Planet’s reality TV series Whale Wars, Sea Shepherd uses direct and sometimes violent means to stop whaling vessels from engaging in species-endangering whaling and fishing practices. Their methods may be controversial, but they work: Sea Shepherd has helped to decrease the number of whales killed each year, and they get lots of attention for the plight of these beautiful creatures.


Known for a wide range of environmental activism, Greenpeace is among the most successful organizations working in the area of oceans, whales and seafood. Greenpeace has set three goals for the next three years: continuing to change seafood choices made at a wholesale level by supermarket retailers, convincing governments and the United Nations that marine reserves are critical to our oceans’ future, and ensuring that the Obama administration uses their diplomatic leverage to close the loopholes that enable commercial whaling.

Ocean Conservancy

Educating the public and advocating for policy changes are the core of Ocean Conservancy’s work to prevent activities that threaten oceanic and, by extension, human life. In addition to organizing an annual international ocean clean-up, Ocean Conservancy has partnered with a popular multi-platform campaign called One World, One Ocean that aims to inspire millions of people worldwide to join the movement to restore and protect the world’s oceans. Its four top priorities include restoring sustainable American fisheries, protecting wildlife from human impacts, conserving the world’s most beautiful oceanic spots and reforming government for better ocean stewardship.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

This non-profit research and higher education facility is dedicated to marine science, with five departments focusing on ocean life, coastal oceans, climate change and deep ocean exploration. Because it’s training and employing some of the world’s top marine researchers and scientists, Woods Hole is considered one of the most influential ocean conservation organizations in the world. These people are on the forefront of the battle to protect the oceans, with three large research vessels carrying scientists out into the field to study erosion, water circulation, pollution and other events that impact marine life.

Blue Frontier Campaign

Made up almost entirely of individual citizen activists, the Blue Frontier Campaign is all about grassroots (which it refers to, naturally, as “seaweed”) actions from a local level up to an international level. Bringing together a wide variety of voices, Blue Frontier organized a four-day Blue Vision summit in 2009, drawing hundreds of leaders in ocean conservation to Washington, D.C. to develop strategies for protecting oceans. It also organizes regional meetings, produces public education campaigns and has published books including 50 Ways to Save the Ocean and The Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide.

Scripps Institute of Oceanography

UC San Diego’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography is one of the oldest, largest and most influential centers for oceanic research, education and public services in the world. Located in La Jolla, California, Scripps is another group on the front lines of the battle to protect the oceans, training and deploying highly educated scientists to study biological, physical, chemical, geological and geophysical aspects of the ocean. Scripps heads up the world’s largest privately-funded network for observing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and also runs the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CMBC).

Marine Fish Conservation Network

The largest national organization dedicated to promoting the long-term sustainability of marine fish, this conservation network is a coalition of hundreds of individual local and national conservation, fishing and scientific organizations. Coming together to share in this common goal, the organizations work to advance national policies that promote marine biodiversity. By adding the voices of fisheries and fishermen across the United States to the sustainability discussion, the Marine Fish Conservation Network aims to come up with workable goals that can end overfishing and prevent the decimation of threatened species.

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition is not just one organization, but dozens. This alliance of over 70 smaller international organizations bands together to influence legislation that can protect and preserve the oceans, like calling on the United Nations General Assembly to place a moratorium on trawling the bottom of the high seas to protect vulnerable species and ecosystems. In just a short period of time, they have already convinced a number of nations to commit to protecting the deep seas from the harmful impact of fishing. The organizations that are a part of the coalition include Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Oceana.

Photo: josh-n

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.