Julie Packard: Putting Aquariums on the Front Lines of Ocean Conservation

The executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium talks about why it’s important to speak for the seas and marine life.
Apr 20, 2015·
Todd Woody is TakePart's editorial director, environment.

Under executive director Julie Packard, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Northern California is probably as well-known for its role in ocean conservation and scientific research as it is for displays of aquatic life on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Its 30-year-old sea otter program studies the environmental challenges facing the imperiled critters while rescuing and rehabilitating injured animals. Other research focuses on great white sharks and endangered bluefin tuna. If you eat fish, you’re probably familiar with the aquarium’s Seafood Watch, a science-based guide to choosing sustainably harvested seafood.

“The ocean needs a voice,” said Packard, a marine biologist. “Aquariums and zoos have a vitally important role in sharing with people the amazing animal life that surrounds us but that we may not have a chance to see firsthand. Who gets a chance to dive out in the open sea with a giant sunfish or encounter a swarm of jellies?”

Not many, unless you’re Sylvia Earle or Julie Packard.

“We’re not only communicating about conservation to the public, but we’re doing conservation,” said Packard. “That’s been my focus—and bringing a voice to the ocean and have people realize our lives truly depend on the future of the sea.”

Read more about the fight to save the world's oceans in our "Blue Planet" series.