World Oceans Day may have come and gone but The Ocean Project, one of the group behind many of the amazing ocean events of June 8th, works year round insuring ocean conservation and protection, education and action. It has grown from a handful of founding North American aquariums and organizations to the world's largest network to advance ocean education and research. When you think of World Oceans Day--you surely think of The Ocean Project. At least, you should.
Enter The Ocean Project's Director Bill Mott, who has been working with various non-profit organizations for over two decades, creating networks and creative coalitions.
"I enjoy working with others around the country, and around the world, working with them to make our individual and collective efforts much more effective for positive change," he says.
And it shows!
Tell me more about yourself, Bill.
In 1996 I left a career inside the Beltway to work on what I feel is most important: helping create a strong constituency for the ocean, and our planet, by working with zoos, aquariums, museums (we like to refer to them by the acronym, ZAM) and other education-oriented organizations. A large part of what The Ocean Project does is try to enhance our Partner ZAM’s efforts with their visitors and the public, so that their onsite and online visitors not only learn a lot, but also are empowered to make a difference, such as change behaviors, get involved with local conservation efforts, or take action locally or nationally on policy issues.
I was hired over 10 years ago by a group of aquarium leaders who wanted the aquarium community to do more for conservation, and their interests and mine aligned at just the right time. I’ve been working here ever since, at first half-time and for the last four years full time. It’s one of those jobs where I’d love to be able say I worked myself out of the job (by having the ocean be restored, bountiful and healthy for the next generation) but it’s not likely to happen anytime too soon, unfortunately. The ocean faces many challenges and there is always a need for more interest and involvement. The Ocean Project is growing daily with new Partners from around the world and it’s an exciting place to work. Just need to help raise the funding these days!
What is The Ocean Project all about?
Since its inception in the late 1990s, The Ocean Project has grown from a handful of founding North American aquariums and organizations into the world's most extensive network for advancing ocean education and action, with over 950 (and growing continually) Partner zoos, aquariums, and museums (again, the ZAMs), plus conservation and education organizations, agencies, and institutions in all 50 U.S. states and 75 countries. Collectively, our Partners reach over 300 million people - more than attendance at all major American sporting events combined.
The Ocean Project advances ocean conservation by working in partnership with ZAMs and others to educate visitors on the importance of protecting and conserving our ocean planet. We help them do so by providing our Partners with cutting-edge public opinion and communications research; effective outreach program strategies to assist in changing attitudes and behaviors for conservation; helpful information and tools to increase civic involvement in community conservation activities; and ways to help with regional, national, and international policy-focused action.
What is The Ocean Project’s Partner Network? How does one become a partner? The Partner network of The Ocean Project continues to grow and evolve. Many aquariums, zoos, science and natural history museums, conservation organizations, and other groups and agencies have become Partners and the list will be expanded to include all who wish to participate actively in achieving our shared mission of ocean conservation through education, action, and networking. The Ocean Project strives to provide our Partners with the most useful information, resources, and tools, including the latest public opinion and market research, cutting-edge conservation communications tools, creative and inspirational ideas and information, and we help in building connections and synergies for sustainability among our Partners. It’s easy to join online, and we encourage readers of this blog to get their favorite local clubs and organizations involved.
Tell me about the Wear Blue and Tell Two campaign for World Oceans Day.
One easy thing that all Partners and friends can do is to wear blue in honor of the ocean. We encourage all ZAM staff and docents as well as those working at NGOs, agencies, universities and schools, and businesses to help spread the blue. The reef hobbyist readers of this blog might consider getting any dive groups or other ocean-oriented organizations they take part in to wear blue for the day.
We also suggest that people not only wear blue, but let others know why: tell people two things they likely don't know about our ocean and how they can help. For example, our ocean is in trouble, with climate change already linked to the killing of coral reefs, and destructive fishing practices causing a dramatic decline in many types of the fish we depend on for food. However, there are important, easy actions each of us can take to help. Calculating our carbon footprints and looking for ways to reduce our role in climate change is a great step. Likewise, we can choose seafood that is abundant in supply and fished or farmed without harm to the ocean. Pocket seafood guides, such as those put out by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, make it easy to choose ocean-friendly seafood.
What can the average person who’s an ocean conservationist, but not part of any organization, do to help the ocean and its inhabitants on World Oceans Day and in the future?
The Wear Blue, Tell Two page has a couple of specific suggestions for how to help, no matter where you live. In addition to that, learning more about where you live, what we like to refer to as your eco-address, can really help. For instance, each of us lives in a watershed that eventually connects to the ocean. Everyone can learn about their watershed, following streams, rivers, lakes, and bays downstream until you reach the ocean. Learning more about your own watershed, the different habitats and animals, the different organizations doing great stuff in your community for conservation, maybe volunteering with one of them, for instance…that all helps each of us get a better sense of where we live, and by following your path to the sea on a map you can see your physical connection, and then learn about what else lies downstream from you.
How can we spread the word about ocean conservation so that perhaps one day there won’t be a need for a World Oceans Day?
There will always be a need for World Oceans Day. It’s sort of like your birthday. Every day is special but once a year it’s an especially important day for you. Same with World Oceans Day. Every day is important for the ocean but once a year it’s worth having a celebration of the seas and our personal connection to the ocean. It’s a chance to honor the ocean, and the wearing blue, we hope, will be something kids and adults everywhere remember to do each June 8th, to show our individual and collective support for the world’s ocean that connects us all in so many ways.