9 Best Charities for Marine Conservation (Complete 2022 List)

9 Best Charities for Marine Conservation (Complete 2022 List)

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Carla Shaik

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Over half of the world’s marine species are expected to be facing extinction by 2100. There are already 500 dead zones in the ocean, covering approx. 245,000 km2, caused by overfishing, pollution, and coral bleaching events. Charities around the world are now fighting to save our oceans’ biodiversity before it’s too late. So we had to ask: what are the best charities for marine conservation?

The best charities for marine conservation in terms of overall impact are Oceana and the Marine Conservation Institute. Charities such as Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Marine Mammal Center do amazing work caring for and rehabilitating marine animals in need.

Whether you want to help reduce plastic pollution in our oceans, ban harmful fishing practices, or ensure the world’s most endangered marine species are protected, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities for marine conservation are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Related: Did you know that you can make Amazon donate 0.5% of your purchases to a charitable organization of your choice. Sign up at smile.amazon.com, select the charity you want your donations to go to, and make Amazon donate a part of your purchases to your chosen charity at no extra cost to you.

Here’s What All the Best Charities for Marine Conservation Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements. They operate all over the world, from North America to Asia, deterring harmful fisheries and campaigning for better protection of vulnerable marine habitats.

Many of the charities on this list focus their efforts on establishing long-term conservation plans for endangered marine animals. Others focus their attention on tackling the plastic pollution problem that kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals each year.

These Are the 9 Best Charities for Marine Conservation

Below are our favorite charities for marine conservation:

  • Oceana
  • Marine Conservation Institute
  • The Ocean Foundation
  • Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • The Marine Mammal Center
  • Oceanic Preservation Society
  • Marine Megafauna Foundation
  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

Oceana: Protecting the World’s Oceans

Oceana was founded in 2001 by a group of passionate organizations after a study found that less than 0.5% of all resources spent by American environmental organizations went towards ocean protection. Today, this charity is the largest advocacy organization for ocean conservation in the world.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Oceana holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“Dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans on a global scale.”

Oceana

What they do: Oceana works to protect the diversity of our oceans by advocating for changes to marine-related government policies. Through their Transparent Ocean’s Initiative, the charity produces evidence-based research to document the consequences of harmful fishing practices and works with governments to make rigid policy changes. They also focus on reducing pollution in our oceans by campaigning for businesses to use alternatives to single-use plastics.

What they’ve achieved: To date, Oceana has protected over 4.5 million square miles of ocean and has won over 225 policy victories for marine wildlife. In 2021, the charity successfully campaigned for a 16,000 square mile increase in vulnerable Orca habitat across the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and Northern California. In the same year, Oceana persuaded Brazil’s leading food delivery service, iFood, to remove all plastics from their packaging by 2025.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Ocean through their website. You can also support the charity by signing one or more of their petitions or by purchasing items from their online store

Marine Conservation Institute: Saving Wild Ocean Places

The Marine Conservation Institute was founded in 1996 by Dr. Elliott Norse to encourage scientists and policymakers to create more marine protected areas. Today, the charity actively maintains the world’s most comprehensive online marine protected area database. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Marine Conservation Institute holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. The charity also has a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator

“Dedicated to securing permanent, strong protection for the ocean’s most important places – for us and future generations.”

Marine Conservation Institute

What they do: The Marine Conservation Institute works to safeguard our oceans’ diversity by providing governments with marine reserve protection guidelines through their Blue Parks Initiative. Their Marine Protection Atlas is a real-time global online resource to identify and track fully or highly protected marine areas. The charity also conducts field research in vital biodiversity areas such as coral reefs, to identify new areas in need of protection.

What they’ve achieved: The Marine Conservation Institute maintains 21 Blue Parks around the globe, covering over 1.67 million square kilometers of ocean. Through their collaboration with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Marine Conservation Institute has stabilized populations of the critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. The population has now grown to 1,400 individuals which is enough to double to a safer size within 35 years.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Marine Conservation Institute through their website. You can also assist the charity by supporting one of their campaigns or by becoming an Ocean Guardian.

The Ocean Foundation: Tackling Threats to our Oceans

The Ocean Foundation was set up in 2003 by Wolcott Henry to create a community foundation with donors who were passionate about coastal and ocean conservation. Today, the charity is dedicated to supporting like-minded organizations to save our oceans. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Ocean Foundation holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and a 4-star-rating from Charity Navigator.

“Dedicated to reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments around the world.”

The Ocean Foundation

What they do: The Ocean Foundation works on projects around the world that are focused on four key areas; ocean literacy, protecting species, conserving habitats, and building the marine conservation community. Through their redesigning Plastics Initiative, the charity is working with scientists to re-engineer the chemistry of plastic itself, to reduce its toxicity to marine life. Alongside the Sea Lion Rescue Project, the Ocean Foundation is working to restore plummeting populations of the California Sea Lion through research, rescue, and vet care.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, the Ocean Foundation has invested $74.4 million in ocean projects. This includes $17.3 million for habitat conservation projects and $2.27 million invested in protecting endangered marine species. In 2021, the charity launched Equisea, which is a platform designed to improve equity in ocean science by providing direct funding for ocean-related conservation projects around the globe. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Ocean Foundation through their website. You can also keep up to date with the charity’s work by signing up to receive their newsletter. Alternatively, you can find out how to limit your carbon footprint through their Seagrass Grow initiative.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: Fighting Illegal Fishing

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was founded in 1977 by marine wildlife conservationist Captain Paul Watson, to fight against illegal fishing. Today, the charity runs the only fleet in the world solely dedicated to protecting all marine life.

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial report, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society spent 89.9% of its expenditure on programs, 8.5% on administration, and 1.6% on fundraising. The charity also has a 100% Encompass rating for finance & accountability from Charity Navigator.  

“To protect and conserve the world’s oceans and marine wildlife.”

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

What they do: The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society works closely with governments to provide fully equipped sea vessels to detect and deter illegal fishing practices. To date, they have focused their efforts on African coasts but are now expanding to protect Central and South American coasts. Since 2015, the charity has also been working with Mexican Authorities and researchers to protect the most endangered marine mammal in the world – the Vaquita Porpoise

What they’ve achieved: To date, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has removed over 1,000 pieces of illegal fishing gear (equalling over 100 miles) from Vaquita Porpoise habitat. This has directly saved over 4,000 fish, marine mammals, sharks, and rays. In 2019, the charity removed 1,700 miles of nylon fishing line and 34 tons of marine pollution from the UNESCO world heritage site of the Cocos Islands, Costa Rica. This waste was then shipped to Aquafil to be recycled into carpet nylon. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society through their website. You can also support the charity by purchasing items from their online shop or by volunteering

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Educating the Public, Saving Marine Life

Monterey Bay Aquarium was first opened in 1984 by a group of marine scientists and local residents, to showcase the unique marine environment of Monterey Bay, California. Today, the charity is dedicated to bringing the wonder of the ocean to visitors, as well as working to save our oceans through their conservation projects.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Monterey Bay Aquarium charitable foundation holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“To inspire conservation of the ocean.”

Monterey Bay Aquarium

What they do: Monterey Bay Aquarium inspires visitors to save the ocean through their 200 exhibits that house over 80,000 marine plants and animals. In addition, scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute are exploring the deep ocean in search of new species, as well as evidence of the impact humans are having on marine ecosystems. The charity also runs several online courses catered toward educating young enthusiasts on marine biology and conservation.

What they’ve achieved: Since the Monterey Bay Aquarium opened its doors, they have educated around 2 million visitors every year. Over a 30 year period, the aquarium has provided surrogacy care for 37 orphaned otters and released them back into the wild – the first project of its kind in the world. Through their Seafood Watch program, the charity has changed the purchasing decisions of 50 nonprofits and over 25,000 businesses worldwide. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Monterey Bay Aquarium through their website. You can also support the charity by visiting the aquarium or by volunteering.

The Marine Mammal Center: Rescuing and Rehabilitating Vulnerable Marine Animals

The Marine Mammal Center was founded in 1975 by Pat Arrigoni, Lloyd Smalley, and Paul Maxwell, to provide sanctuary for injured, ill, or abandoned marine animals. Today, the charity is the largest marine mammal hospital in the world.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Marine Mammal Center holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“Advancing global ocean conservation through research and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education.”

The Marine Mammal Center

What they do: The Marine Mammal Center runs a 24-hour call center to rescue marine animals in distress. The animals are then given comprehensive veterinary care at the center until they are ready to be released back into the wild. In addition, the charity conducts research into new innovative medical techniques to manage and cure a range of marine animal illnesses. Through their Cetacean Field Research Program, the charity is conducting scientific studies to better protect whales, dolphins, and porpoises in the Greater Farallones 

What they’ve achieved: Since its founding, the Marine Mammal Center has rescued over 24,000 marine mammals across 600 miles of California coastline and Hawaii. In 2020, the charity’s 1,070 volunteers clocked 76,792 hours of service to save marine wildlife. In the same year, the charity disentangled and released 15 wild California sea lions and participated in seven whale response missions through their Whale Entanglement Response and Prevention program. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Marine Mammal Center through their website. You can also support the charity by symbolically adopting a seal or by volunteering.

Oceanic Preservation Society: Projecting Change for Our Oceans

The Oceanic Preservation Society was founded in 2005 by American photographer and film director Louie Psihoyos, to raise awareness of the destructive issues facing our oceans. Today, the charity is dedicated to protecting endangered marine life through advocacy and poignant documentaries.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Oceanic Preservation Society holds the Bronze Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. The charity has yet to be scored by Charity Navigator.

“Expose the truth. Protect the planet”

Oceanic Preservation Society

What they do: The Oceanic Preservation Society raises awareness of the plights facing our oceans by organizing worldwide advocacy events and producing high-impact documentaries to inspire change. They do this by infiltrating the industries that are having a devastating impact on our ocean’s diversity. By working with Shark Allies, the charity is campaigning to ban the import, export, and sale of shark fins. They are also working to reduce shark and ray bycatch by calling for the end of unsustainable fisheries.

What they’ve achieved: Since its founding, the Oceanic Preservation Society has reached 5.3 billion people through their innovative global projection events. Their first documentary ‘The Cove’ (2009), has received over 50 million views to date. The film tells the true story of activists who exposed the deadly dolphin hunting events taking place in a remote cave in Taiji, Japan. Since the film’s launch, 1.3 million people have contacted the Japanese authorities to protest against the cruel industry. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Oceanic Preservation Society through their website. You can also support the charity by purchasing merchandise from their online shop or by supporting one of their campaigns.

Marine Megafauna Foundation: Saving Ocean Giants

The Marine Megafauna Foundation was founded in 2009 by Dr. Andrea Marshall and Dr. Simon Pierce, to protect the world’s giant marine species. Today, the charity utilizes ground-breaking research to formulate long-term conservation programs for the largest ocean animals. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Marine Megafauna Foundation holds the Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. The charity also has a 95% Encompass rating for finance & accountability from Charity Navigator

“A world where marine life and humans thrive together.”

Marine Megafauna Foundation

What they do: The Marine Megafauna Foundation conducts research on marine megafauna (particularly whale sharks and rays), to help governments and policymakers implement tailored ocean conservation projects. The charity focuses on three key regions that represent the highest levels of biodiversity; the Americas, the Western Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia. Their Florida Manta Ray Project is the world’s first dedicated study of Florida’s Manta Rays.

What they’ve achieved: Since their inception, the Marine Megafauna Foundation has developed numerous vital marine conservation tools including satellite tags and photo recognition systems to track populations. In 2020, the charity was integral to the launch of new regulations in Mozambique that enforce the use of bycatch reduction methods by all trawlers. In the same year, they also trained 2,802 young marine conservationists through their MFF Curriculum. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Marine Megafauna Foundation through their website. You can also support the charity by symbolically adopting a manta ray or a whale shark.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation: Protecting Whales and Dolphins Worldwide

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC)  is a UK-based charity founded in 1987 as the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. In 2012, its name was changed to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, led by Chief Executive Director Chris Butler-Stroud. Today, the charity is the leading organization dedicated to the protection of whales and dolphins worldwide. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The US branch of Whale and Dolphin Conservation holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. According to their financial report, the charity spent 68% of its income on charitable activities and 17% on fundraising.  

“A world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.”

Whale and Dolphin Conservation

What they do: Whale and Dolphin Conservation campaigns for the end of the captive whale and dolphin entertainment industry and fights to stop whale hunting around the world. In addition, the charity works with international bodies and governments to designate protected areas for wild dolphins and whales where they are needed most. They also work with governments to ban harmful fishing gear that traps hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins across the globe.  

What they’ve achieved: Since their inception, Whale and Dolphin Conservation has successfully campaigned for the end of the illegal online whale meat trade in Japan. Their advocacy has also reduced tourist whale meat consumption in Iceland from 40% to 12% within 10 years. In 2020, the charity successfully advocated for the removal of four dams on the Klamath River that reduce the salmon food source of an endangered population of Southern resident Orcas. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Whale and Dolphin Conservation through their website. You can also support the charity by symbolically adopting a whale or dolphin, or through fundraising.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for marine conservation. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarize yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing a charity’s progress in reaching its targets, the chances are they’re not making a substantial positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to marine conservation – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,

PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

Sources

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Carla Shaik

Carla is passionate about animal welfare and our natural environment and is on a mission to give you the knowledge you need to help protect our planet and all of its inhabitants. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare, is a teaching support officer at the College of West Anglia, and also works as a cat sitter in her local community. Aside from writing, she has a love of music, teaching her daughter how to play piano, and enjoys getting creative with craft activities.

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