Celebrating 50 years of education and conservation
The story of Ocean Conservancy began with one man and his passion for educating students, teachers and the public and motivating them to take action.
Originally founded in 1972 by Bill Kardash as the Delta Organization, the name was changed in 1975 to the Center for Environmental Education (CEE). The primary mission was to educate and encourage people to care about animals, which Kardash and his Board of Directors saw as the first step in developing a broader environmental ethic.
Kardash’s own environmental ethic evolved dramatically after seeing a National Geographic special on whales and the threat to them of overfishing. He was moved to launch the Whale Protection Fund, which focused on saving whales and protesting commercial whaling by various countries. The Whale Protection Fund collected 500,000 petitions from people concerned about the plight of whales and presented them at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual meeting in London in 1978.
In a surprising twist, John Denver joined Kardash at the meeting to share his own plea for the whales. At the meeting, Denver presented the petitions and sang one of his original songs in a show-stopping moment that brought attention and action to protecting whales.
In the early years, CEE continued to focus on campaigns for individual species, including seals and sea turtles. While there were a number of victories, we realized we couldn’t protect species without protecting their habitats and ensuring strong and effective policies and regulations. So, we thought bigger, increased our programs and shifted to a broader ecosystem-based approach.
In the 1980s, we fought for key habitats to be protected under the Marine Sanctuary Program, and our staff hosted our very first International Coastal Cleanup® in 1986. In 1989, CEE became the Center for Marine Conservation, more aptly defining our mission and focus on the ocean, and in 2001, we were officially renamed The Ocean Conservancy (later legally dropping the “The”).
Over the years, our mission grew and solidified to make us who we are now: a science-based conservation organization that stands on the absolute conviction that each individual can make a positive difference for our ocean.
Now, Ocean Conservancy is at the forefront of ocean conservation. We work across the world to ensure a healthy ocean and protect the wildlife and communities that depend on it. Because the ocean impacts each one of us—the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat—the ocean is the responsibility of us all.
We remain dedicated to working together to find solutions to the biggest threats facing our ocean. Whether that is working towards sustainable fisheries or ocean-based climate solutions, we take an adaptive, inclusive and holistic approach to conservation. We are grateful for the passion and vision of all who have made this organization what it is today—including you.
Throughout our history, we’ve depended on the support of dedicated ocean advocates like you. Here’s to working together over the next 50 years to accomplish even more for our ocean.