Seattle Aquarium Exemplifies Resilience and Commitment to Conservation
June 9, 2020 | By Erin Mayer and Gloria Kostadinova
If there is one lesson to learn from our blue planet it is that resilience is paramount in times of crisis. Just as natural ecosystems and animals must learn to adapt to a changing climate, so too communities across the globe must now demonstrate resilience in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. World Ocean Day partner Seattle Aquarium is leading by example and adapting to the changing landscape while advancing its mission to inspire conservation of our marine environment.
An accredited institution by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Seattle Aquarium boasts a diverse array of exhibits, conservation education programs for people of all ages and backgrounds; community outreach to underserved populations; direct field conservation programs to recover endangered species; research that advances understanding and informs decision making; and advocacy for science-based ocean policy. Since opening its doors in 1977, Seattle Aquarium has hosted over 27 million visitors, ranking it in the top ten aquariums in the U.S. by attendance.
“As an aquarium, we are uniquely positioned to advance innovative conservation solutions by applying our experience and expertise in animal care and breeding, field conservation, policy, and empathy to recover endangered species, build a conservation movement and co-create trans-national solutions to global conservation challenges,” said Dr. Erin Meyer, Director of Conservation Programs and Partnerships.
Yet, with visitor attendance halted during the health crisis, and with the uncertainty of what a post-COVID-19 world will look like, Seattle Aquarium has taken this time to adapt to a new normal. Audiences can now experience the aquarium from anywhere through its digital platform with live webcams, diver shows, storytimes, and virtual field trips, as well as online resources. Seattle Aquarium is committed to continuing to educate, engage, and inspire its audiences at home. The challenge has also presented an opportunity to lean in and promote social solidarity with environmental justice and human health communities, to find common purpose where justice and human health intersect with ocean health, and to reexamine processes to ethically approach opportunities for engagement.
“Because we are uniquely positioned to raise awareness around conservation solutions, we can simultaneously use our capacity to integrate and call attention to action that would work to advance environmental justice,” said Adrienne Hampton, Washington Sea Grant Keystone Fellow with the Seattle Aquarium. “Addressing inequity throughout all facets of our day is imperative to protecting and honoring community and culture, the ocean, and each other.”
While the aquarium is closed to the public, there are still bustling staff ensuring the highest level of care and welfare for the animals, 24/7. And conservation is a central part of Seattle Aquarium’s identity. Thus, the aquarium is committed to advancing its conservation priorities—climate resilience, sustainable seas, and clean waters—through this crisis by maintaining its field conservation, policy and advocacy, and research programs in the Salish Sea, Washington Coast, and Coral Triangle.
In addition to its sponsorship, Seattle Aquarium is an active World Ocean Day organizer, helping advance important conservation goals locally, regionally, and globally. This year World Ocean Day is uniting conservation action to grow the global movement calling on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030.
Protected areas, such as national parks and marine reserves, are one tool to help achieve this global conservation goal. Safeguarding at least 30% of our land and ocean through a network of highly protected areas is a meaningful first step that will help ensure a healthy home for all.
“Protecting 30% of our ocean and land in the near term will improve access to nature for all, boost the chance of recovery for critically endangered species, and contribute to meaningful climate action,” said Nora Nickum, Ocean Policy Manager. “There are so many direct benefits, but we must work together to take action now.”
Thanks to the leadership and resilience of partners like Seattle Aquarium, World Ocean Day is able to continue growing collaborative conservation worldwide to protect and restore our global ocean. Together we can protect our home!
Photos are courtesy of Grant Abel, Seattle Aquarium