At the New England Aquarium, we are committed to engaging and educating the public through our exhibits in Boston—but also in taking an active role in the world. Today, we see many threats facing the oceans—including overfishing, climate change, pollution and habitat loss. Our commitment is to build awareness and find innovative solutions through our marine conservation and research. Some of our signature programs include:

Discovering the Blue Planet: Creating the Next Generation of Ocean Protectors

Aquarium visitors, including thousands of schoolchildren, delight in seeing marine animals in beautiful and interesting habitats. More than ever, we are working to expand this sense of wonder to a level of interest that can last a lifetime. Our goal is to turn visitors into explorers, and explorers into stewards of the oceans.

Today, our more than 1.3 million annual visitors include over 100,000 schoolchildren, as well as 30,000 New England students who are served by outreach programs and thousands more reached through our Teen Internship program, Harbor Discoveries Camp and Teacher Resource Center. Going forward, our outreach efforts will also focus on adult learners and the growing population of new immigrants to the city who represent a relatively untapped group of potential visitors.

Protecting Endangered Species and Habitats: North Atlantic Right Whales

Fewer than 400 critically endangered North Atlantic right whales are believed to remain alive today, making this one of the most endangered of all large whales. Once heavily hunted by whalers for their oil, right whales now suffer from fatal ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements. Approximately half of right whale deaths can be attributed to human actions.

In 2003, the Aquarium, in cooperation with the Canadian government and several conservation organizations, spearheaded an particularly important conservation effort. The shipping lanes that run through the Bay of Fundy, a right whale breeding ground, were shifted by approximately 4 nautical miles. This small change has reduced the probability of whale-ship collisions by 80 percent.

The Aquarium’s right whale team—the longest running marine mammal research project in the U.S.—also observes, counts and collects data on right whales and maintains a photographic record of every known North Atlantic right whale. Our team continues to forge government, shipping and fishing industry partnerships to help save these critically endangered whales.

Creating the Largest Marine Protected Area in the World: Phoenix Islands

The Aquarium was central to one of the most important global conservation efforts in the last several years: the creation of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). With eight coral atolls and two submerged reef systems, this is now the largest marine protected area in the world. At 158,453 square miles, this area includes some of the world’s most pristine and primal ocean.

Aquarium Vice President for Global Marine Programs Greg Stone was at the center of negotiations, acting as scientist and conservationist, diplomat and fundraiser. The Aquarium is committed to working with key partners Conservation International, National Geographic and the government of Kiribati, the nation of which the Phoenix Islands are a part.

Changing How Fish is Bought and Sold: Sustainable Seafood Programs

Today, many species have been fished to near extinction and some seafood is caught or produced in ways that harm the environment. Through our Sustainable Seafood Programs the Aquarium’s conservation department is working to help maintain healthy fish populations while supporting the fishing industry.

The Aquarium works directly with seafood buyers and sellers (such as Stop & Shop parent company Ahold USA and Gorton’s) to help them make environmentally responsible seafood choices for their stores. We also educate consumers on which fish provide the best seafood choices and sponsor events, such as the Celebrate Seafood Dinner Series, to highlight sustainable seafood.

Protecting New England’s Resources: Pioneering Research on Lobster Shell Disease

Over the past decade, fisherman and scientists have noticed an increase in the prevalence and severity of lobster shell disease, when bacteria eat away at their shells. In 1999, scientists became alarmed when a 30 percent increase in the disease was noted among Rhode Island lobsters. Today, Michael Tlusty, the Aquarium's director of research, is focusing his work on the potential causes of the diseases, such as whether the result of rising water temperatures or a change in lobster diet is the likely cause.

Conserving Resources with Unconventional Methods: Amazon Rainforest

In a region called Barcelos in Brazil, people’s livelihoods depend on selling the cardinal tetra, an ornamental fish, much prized by collectors and hobbyists. At least 20 million are harvested each year and their sale accounts for two-thirds of the local economy.

Scott Dowd, a senior aquarist at the Aquarium, has spearheaded Project Piaba (piaba is the local name for the ornamental fish). The idea is to keep these fisheries in business and prevent workers from having to work in more ecologically destructive jobs such as timber harvesting. By teaching environment-friendly and sustainable ways to catch and sell the fish, the scientists are making huge strides against poverty and the exploitation of natural resources.