9 Best Charities to Save Our Oceans (Complete 2023 List)
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Our oceans are struggling with the environmental changes caused by our modern way of living, as well as industrial fishing practices. Coral reefs, home to over half of the world’s fish, have declined by 40% in the last 40 years. Marine species are also being heavily affected by the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic that are floating in our oceans. So we had to ask: What are the best charities to save our oceans?
The best charities to save our oceans in terms of overall impact are Oceana and the PADI AWARE Foundation. Charities such as The Marine Mammal Center and the Marine Conservation Institute work tirelessly to protect endangered marine species from extinction.
Whether you want to help clean-up our oceans, or invest in more sustainable fishing methods, or ensure that our coral reefs are around for future generations, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities to save our oceans are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.
Here’s What All the Best Charities to Save Our Oceans 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 globe, from the Maldives to the Arctic, restoring vital marine habitats and promoting sustainable fishing practices to protect endangered species.
Many of the charities on this list focus their efforts on expanding marine protected areas to allow vulnerable marine populations to increase. Others focus their attention on removing harmful plastics from our oceans and beaches. Yet all of them share the same goal – to preserve our beautiful oceans and protect the incredible diversity that lives within them.
These Are the 9 Best Charities to Save Our Oceans in 2023
Below are our favorite charities to save our oceans:
- PADI AWARE Foundation
- Blue Marine Foundation
- Marine Conservation Institute
- Surfrider Foundation
- Ocean Conservancy
- The Marine Mammal Center
- Sea Life Trust
- Coral Reef Alliance
(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 like-minded organizations after a study found that less than 0.5% of all resources spent by American environmental organizations went towards protecting our oceans. Today, this charity is the largest international advocacy organization for ocean conservation in the world.
“Dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans on a global scale.”Oceana
What they do: Oceana works to make our oceans more diverse and abundant by advocating for changes to marine-related government policies. The charity particularly focuses its efforts on tracking harmful fisheries that are causing high levels of bycatch and running unsustainable practices. They also focus on reducing pollution in our oceans and protecting the most endangered marine species by campaigning for the widespread use of cleaner energy sources.
What they’ve achieved: To date, Oceana has protected nearly 4 million square miles of ocean, and has won over 225 policy victories for marine wildlife. In June 2021, after years of campaigning by Oceana, NOAA Fisheries issued a final rule to protect over 25,000 miles of deep-sea coral habitat from destructive fishing gear. In 2014, the charity also teamed up with Google and Skytruth to create Global Fishing Truth which provides 24-hour watch over the oceans to increase transparency in the fishing sector and identify areas in need of conservation.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Oceana through their website. You can also support the charity by purchasing items from their online gift store or by signing one of their numerous petitions to protect the ocean and its wildlife.
PADI AWARE Foundation: Local Action. Global Impact
PADI AWARE Foundation was founded in 1992 as part of the PADI organization (the largest scuba diving organization in the world), to drive local action for global ocean conservation. Today, the charity is the largest and fastest-growing underwater citizen science movement in the world.
Their impact and transparency ratings: The PADI AWARE Foundation holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. According to their financial report, the charity spent 39% of its income on tackling global marine debris, and 31% on protecting vulnerable marine species.
“To address the key threats facing the marine environment.”PADI AWARE Foundation
What they do: PADI AWARE Foundation engages the public to remove plastics and other debris from our oceans through their Dive Against Debris Program. Volunteers can even see their impact via the charity’s innovative Dive Against Debris Global Map. They also focus their efforts on creating a sustainable diving industry by educating divers on how to live an ocean-conscious lifestyle and encouraging business owners to adopt sustainable practices.
What they’ve achieved: To date, the PADI AWARE Foundation has removed 2 million pieces of debris from our oceans, with the help of their 128,000 professional diving members. The charity has also educated over 1 million divers on the threats facing our oceans, as well as how to tackle them. In 2020, the charity rescued 1,585 entangled marine animals from fishing nets and removed 42,519kgs of debris.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the PADI AWARE Foundation through their website. You can also support the charity by setting up your own fundraiser. If you are a professional PADI registered diver you can also adopt a dive site to help protect the ocean.
Blue Marine Foundation: Working to Protect Our Oceans
The Blue Marine Foundation was set up in 2010 by Charles Clover, George Duffield, and Chris Gorell Barnes, to address the global problem of overfishing. Today, the charity works to protect the ocean’s diversity by developing sustainable fishing practices and increasing protected marine areas.
Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial report, Blue Marine Foundation spent 86% of its income on conservation projects, 8% on admin, and 6% on generating funds.
“To restore the ocean to health by addressing overfishing, one of the world’s biggest environmental problems.”Blue Marine Foundation
What they do: Blue Marine Foundation works with governments and other organizations around the world to create protected marine reserves, develop sustainable fishing techniques, and restore vital habitats. They also advocate heavily against commercial fishing practices such as bottom-tow fishing gear, through their Blue Legal initiative. In addition, they have set up ocean schools and marine education programs in the Maldives and the Aeolians, as well as providing free digital marine conservation resources for the general public.
What they’ve achieved: To date, the Blue Marine Foundation has secured protection for over 4 million square kilometers of ocean in their 21 project locations around the globe. In 2020, thanks to the campaigning of the Blue Marine Foundation, the Maldivian Government introduced a new law preventing the capture, sale, and export of all Parrotfish species. According to scientists, these species are critical for the recovery and survival of coral reefs after a bleaching event.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Blue Marine Foundation through their website. You can also support the charity by taking part in their London to Monaco Challenge to raise funds, or you can join the charity as an active, long-term supporter, and receive regular updates on their work.
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.
“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 protect the diversity of our oceans through their Blue Parks Initiative. This sets out clear standards for governments to establish effectively protected marine reserves that will safeguard biological diversity. 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 17 Blue Parks around the globe, covering 1.67 million square kilometers of ocean. Through their collaboration with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Marine Conservation Institute has been able to stabilize populations of the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. The population has now grown to 1,400 individuals with an increase of around 2% annually.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Marine Conservation Institute through their website. Alternatively, you can join their One Third For Nature campaign and support the charities’ aim of safeguarding at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.
Surfrider Foundation: Cleaning Up the World’s Beaches
The Surfrider Foundation was founded in 1984 by a group of surfers from Malibu, California, including Glenn Hening and Lance Carson. The charity was initially set up because they were concerned about the environmental threats and plastic pollution that were causing health risks for local surfers. Today, the charity clears our beaches of litter and advocates for cleaner oceans and disposal practices.
“Dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network.”Surfrider Foundation
What they do: The Surfrider Foundation runs numerous campaigns to protect coastal spaces and ensure our oceans remain wild and diverse. Alongside their 57,000 volunteers, they run regular beach clean-up operations to remove harmful plastics and other trash items from our coastlines. Their Ocean Friendly Restaurant Program provides restaurants with a simple framework to reduce plastic waste in their establishments and recognizes those that are committed to cutting out single-use plastics through a registration process.
What they’ve achieved: To date, the Surfrider Foundation has performed 936 beach clean-ups that have resulted in 300,000 lbs of trash being removed from US coasts. Their advocacy victories have led to the enactment of Environmental Protection legislation which has prevented 8.65 billion single used plastic items from entering our oceans. The charity has now accredited 672 Ocean-Friendly restaurants across the US.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Surfrider Foundation through their website. You can also support the charity by joining as a volunteer or by getting involved in one of their many awareness and fundraising events.
Ocean Conservancy: For the Love of the Ocean
The Ocean Conservancy was founded in 1971 by Bill Kardash after he attended the International Whaling Commission in Washington D.C. Whilst there, he had a conversation with legendary singer John Denver about the state of whale populations, which inspired him to set up the charity. Today, the charity focuses on long-term solutions to save our oceans.
“Working with you to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges.”Ocean Conservancy
What they do: Ocean Conservancy works with their 1 million volunteers to perform mass clean-ups of our oceans and beaches. In addition, the charity advocates for the future protection of our oceans, particularly the Arctic, and sustainable fishing practices in congress.
What they’ve achieved: To date, the Ocean Conservancy has removed 341,836,857 pounds of trash from our oceans. In 2020, the charity became the first national ocean partner for a Superbowl, which resulted in the elimination of 2.7 million single-use plastic cups (replaced with sustainable aluminum cups). They were also integral to the passing of the Save Our Seas Act 2.0, which allocates funds to support marine debris prevention.
The Marine Mammal Center: Rescuing and Rehabilitating Vulnerable Marine Animals
The Marine Mammal Center was founded in 1975 by Lloyd Smalley, Pat Arrigoni, 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.
“Advancing global ocean conservation through rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education.”The Marine Mammal Center
What they do: The Marine Mammal Center runs a 24-hour hotline, responding to calls from the public about marine animals in distress. The animals are then given veterinary care at the sanctuary until they are ready to be released back into the wild. In addition, the charities’ research experts work to create new innovative medical techniques and cures for a range of marine animal illnesses, including leptospirosis and cancer. Their education programs connect students of all ages with marine mammals to inspire a love of the ocean.
What they’ve achieved: To date, the Marine Mammal Center has rescued and rehabilitated over 24,000 marine mammals including sea lions, fur seals, and endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals. In 2020, the charity engaged 5000 middle school students in their ocean conservation program and supplied over 60 teachers with the resources to continue inspiring their students in marine science.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Marine Mammal Center through their website. You can also support the charity by volunteering at the center or by symbolically adopting a released seal through their Adopt-A-Seal Program.
Sea Life Trust: Increasing Protection for Marine Life
The Sea Life Trust was founded in 2014 by Merlin Entertainments who own 44 Sea Life establishments around the world. The charity was set up to protect the world’s oceans and today they advocate for more marine protected areas, as well as perform global clean-ups to remove plastic pollution from our seas.
Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial report, the Sea Life Trust spent 80% of its expenditure on charitable activities, and 20% on raising funds.
“Working globally to protect the world’s oceans and the amazing marine life that lives within them.”Sea Life Trust
What they do: The Sea Life Trust advocates for the protection of marine life and educates the public through their two marine wildlife sanctuaries; the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in the UK, and the world’s first Beluga Whale Sanctuary, in Iceland. They also work on a global scale, supporting local community projects that work to protect marine life and their habitats. In addition, the charity performs clean-ups to remove plastics and ghost fishing gear from our beaches and oceans.
What they’ve achieved: In 2021, the Sea Life Trust removed 3,662kgs of litter from beaches around the world, which equates to the weight of 9 adult male seals. Their ground-breaking project in Peru, which uses a simple LED light placed onto gillnets, has reduced turtle bycatch in the area by 100%.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Sea Life Trust through their website. You can also support the charity by getting involved in their Global Beach Clean initiative or by purchasing items from their online shop.
Coral Reef Alliance: Protecting Vital Coral Reefs
The Coral Reef Alliance was founded in 1994 by Stephen Colwell to help coral reefs adapt to climate change. Today, the charity is one of the largest non-profit organizations dedicated to reducing the direct threats facing our coral reefs.
“To save the world’s coral reefs”.Coral Reef Alliance
What they do: The Coral Reef Alliance utilizes scientific research to engage local communities in restoring and protecting their native coral reefs. They do this by building sustainable wastewater structures, expanding marine protected areas, and working with tourism companies to raise awareness of the threats facing coral reefs. They focus their efforts on two critically important coral reef areas; Hawaii and the Mesoamerican Region (the second-largest coral reef in the world). In addition, their Coral Bleaching Response Program brings together scientists from around the world to monitor coral bleaching in response to climate change
What they’ve achieved: Thanks to the work of the Coral Reef Alliance, there has been a 95% reduction in harmful bacteria along the coastal waters of Roatan, Mexico. In 2020, the charity removed 20 tonnes of sediment from Maui’s coral reefs and trained 130 tourism operators in sustainable practices, across Mexico, Belize, and Honduras.
How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?
The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities to save our oceans. 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. Familiarise 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.
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 saving our oceans – based on the causes that matter most to you.
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:
- Antarctica Journal: Why the oceans are in trouble
- Oceana: Home page
- Oceana: What we do
- GuideStar: Oceana
- Charity Navigator: Oceana
- Oceana: Tracking harmful fisheries subsidies
- Oceana: Ending single-use plastics
- Oceana: Our Campaigns
- Oceana: About us
- Oceana: Victories Archive
- Oceana: Oceana Magazines
- Oceana: Donate
- Oceana: Adoption and Gift Center
- Oceana: Take Action
- PADI AWARE Foundation: Home page
- PADI: Home page
- GuideStar: PADI AWARE Foundation
- PADI AWARE Foundation: Financial Report 2020
- PADI AWARE Foundation: Marine Debris
- PADI AWARE Foundation: Dive Against Debris Map
- PADI AWARE Foundation: Industry sustainability
- PADI AWARE Foundation: 2020 Impact Report
- PADI AWARE Foundation: Donate
- PADI AWARE Foundation: Become a Fundraiser
- PADI AWARE Foundation: Adopt a Dive Site
- Blue Marine Foundation: Home page
- Blue Marine Foundation: 2020 Review
- Blue Marine Foundation: Sustainable Aquaculture
- Blue Marine Foundation: Our projects
- Blue Marine Foundation: Blue Legal
- Blue Marine Foundation: Blue Education
- Blue Marine Foundation: Blue Digital Education
- Blue Marine Foundation: Our Impact
- Blue Marine Foundation: About us
- Blue Marine Foundation: Donate
- Blue Marine Foundation: London to Monaco
- Blue Marine Foundation: Join Blue
- Marine Conservation Institute: Home page
- Marine Conservation Institute: Our Mission
- GuideStar: Marine Conservation Institute
- Charity Navigator: Marine Conservation Institute
- Marine Conservation Institute: Blue Parks
- Marine Conservation Institute: Marine Protection Atlas
- Marine Conservation Institute: Deep-Sea Corals
- Marine Conservation Institute: Annual Report 2020
- Marine Conservation Institute: Marine Wildlife
- Marine Conservation Institute: Donate
- Marine Conservation Institute: Support 30×30
- Surfrider Foundation: Home page
- GuideStar: Surfrider Foundation
- Charity Navigator: Surfrider Foundation
- Surfrider Foundation: Campaigns
- Surfrider Foundation: Beach clean-ups
- Surfrider Foundation: Ocean-friendly restaurants
- Surfrider Foundation: 2019 Annual Report
- Surfrider Foundation: Donate
- Surfrider Foundation: Volunteer
- Surfrider Foundation: Events
- Ocean Conservancy: Home page
- GuideStar: Ocean Conservancy
- Charity Navigator: Ocean Conservancy
- Ocean Conservancy: Fighting for Trash Free Seas
- Ocean Conservancy: Government Relations
- Ocean Conservancy: Protecting the Arctic
- Ocean Conservancy: Financials
- Ocean Conservancy: Donate
- Ocean Conservancy: Action Center
- The Marine Mammal Center: Home page
- The Marine Mammal Center: Where we work
- GuideStar: The Marine Mammal Center
- Charity Navigator: The Marine Mammal Center
- The Marine Mammal Center: 24-hour hotline
- The Marine Mammal Center: Rehabilitation
- The Marine Mammal Center: Research Library
- The Marine Mammal Center: Leptospirosis
- The Marine Mammal Center: Cancer
- The Marine Mammal Center: Education
- The Marine Mammal Center: What we do
- The Marine Mammal Center: Impact Report 2020
- The Marine Mammal Center: Donate
- The Marine Mammal Center: Volunteer
- The Marine Mammal Center: Adopt-a-Seal
- Sea Life Trust: Home page
- Charity Commission for England and Wales: Sea Life Trust
- Sea Life Trust: Cornish Seal Sanctuary
- Sea Life Trust: Beluga Whale Sanctuary
- Sea Life Trust: Our Global Projects
- Sea Life Trust: Reduce Plastic Litter
- Sea Life Trust: Donate
- Sea Life Trust: Global Beach Clean
- Sea Life Trust: Online Shop
- Coral Reef Alliance: Home page
- GuideStar: Coral Reef Alliance
- Charity Navigator: Coral Reef Alliance
- Coral Reef Alliance: Local Engagement
- Coral Reef Alliance: Hawaiian Islands
- Coral Reef Alliance: Mesoamerican Region
- Coral Reef Alliance: Clean Water For Reefs
- Coral Reef Alliance: Healthy Fisheries
- Coral Reef Alliance: Coral Bleaching
- Coral Reef Alliance: Donate
- Coral Reef Alliance: Other Ways to Give