Today, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre celebrates 60 years of ocean conservation and there is much to be proud of. Over six decades we have inspired tens of millions of people to take action on ocean conservation – 44 million people have engaged in aquatic life through a visit to our marine science centre and hundreds of millions more have connected to ocean conservation through our awareness and outreach programs.

As first responders, we have rescued and rehabilitated thousands of sick and injured marine mammals, giving them a second chance at life. As educators, we see the spark ignited in the students we teach, knowing those bright minds will one day be leading the charge as future conservationists. We have also been one of the first to breed endangered species to help with declining populations, such as Oregon spotted and Northern leopard frogs. Frogs are indicator species, which means they can help us understand changes that are happening in nature.

The Aquarium's first sea lion disentanglement in 2013. Photo credit: Neil Fisher.

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre’s first sea lion disentanglement in 2013. Photo: Neil Fisher.

Over the years, we have established groundbreaking marine mammal research and grown our national direct action programs into some of the biggest in Canada. In looking back, our 1,500-strong team truly has much to celebrate. Though, I can’t help but think about the work that lies ahead.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the health of our oceans and feel strongly that more needs to be done to protect them. From a rapidly warming Arctic to increasing pressure from human activity, our oceans face more threats than ever. Overfishing, climate change, ocean pollution and human development are squeezing the life out of the marine environment.

Already, 90 per cent of large fish have vanished from our seas, while only 0.6 percent of the world’s oceans are protected. Meanwhile, careless human activity on land creates more than 80 per cent of the pollution that chokes our waters.

Ocean Wise research analyst Laurenne Schiller highlighted the sustainable gooseneck barnacle harvest Ha’oom Wild Seafood near Tofino on Vancouver Island in 2015. Photo Credit: Ha'oom Wild Seafood.

Ocean Wise highlighted the sustainable gooseneck barnacle harvest by Ha’oom Wild Seafood near Tofino on Vancouver Island in 2015. Photo: Ha’oom Wild Seafood.

Indeed, what happens to our oceans in the coming decades will have a huge impact on human life. Oceans make up 70 per cent of the earth’s surface, generate more than half the world’s oxygen and feed more than one billion people around the world. Even as humans are putting greater pressure on our blue planet than ever before, we rely on it for our own survival.

I’ve made a lifelong commitment to doing my small part in managing the impact I have on the oceans and I hope we have encouraged the tens of millions in our network to do the same. We are not powerless to stop and reverse many of the forces that threaten our most precious resource. In celebrating our 60th anniversary, we hope to empower even more people to take an active role in marine conservation. We are resolute in our message: each of us has a role to play in protecting our oceans. From choosing sustainable seafood to cleaning our shorelines to reducing our energy use and properly disposing plastic materials, every little step we take helps in our global collective effort.

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup - West Coast Trail 2015.

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup – West Coast Trail 2015.

The last 60 years are proof of Vancouver Aquarium’s ability to connect people to the world that lies below the water’s surface. While we have made strides in protecting our marine environment, our goal for the next 60 years is to build on that legacy, to engage millions more around the world to join together and create a future where our oceans will once again thrive.

John Nightingale, PhD, President and CEO, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is celebrating 60 years of ocean conservation with a series of stories that highlight its impact on the world around us. Better known for its conservation efforts, such as the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and Ocean Wise, Vancouver Aquarium also operates Canada’s only Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, and has connected 42 million visitors to aquatic life since opening its doors in 1956. Join us as we explore six decades of milestones and look ahead to what’s needed to protect our world’s oceans.



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