Aquariums Celebrate the Release of the White House Ocean Justice Strategy

Washington, D.C. – Monday, December 11, 2023 – As the nation’s leading aquariums and zoos working to conserve our ocean and freshwater ecosystems, Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) members applaud the release of the nation’s first Ocean Justice Strategy. According to the Biden-Harris Administration, the Ocean Justice Strategy is motivated by the recognition that many communities that live near the ocean, depend on marine resources, or are part of the ocean economy face unique circumstances that exacerbate their existing challenges and prevent equitable access to the benefits the ocean provides. It outlines overarching goals, principles, and practices the Federal Government can adopt in order to provide sustainable benefits for people, communities, and the environment. 

Our institutions welcome millions of visitors each year; people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses across urban and rural environments. As trusted institutions that are highly engaged with our surrounding communities as well as local and regional partners, we know we must evolve in order to help realize a world with meaningful involvement of all people in decision-making and to provide equitable access to the benefits of a healthy and resilient ocean. And we are confronting issues of racial, gender, and social equity within our own organizations, across the zoo and aquarium industry, and throughout our conservation work.

Ocean justice derives from environmental justice with a specific focus on communities with environmental justice concerns that rely on the ocean and Great Lakes for economic, cultural, spiritual, and recreational purposes, and food security. The Ocean Justice Strategy builds on the administration’s existing environmental justice commitments and focuses on improving federal government processes, workforce development, capacity building, and the advancement of knowledge to better address injustices faced by coastal and ocean-dependent communities.  It is a good foundation, built with broad public input, that makes clear it is the responsibility of every federal agency to contribute to ocean justice. 

In response, ACP members released the following statements:

“Bravo to the Biden-Harris administration for elevating the importance of ocean justice through their government-wide strategy. For the ocean to flourish, the federal government and all of us who work to restore and protect our ocean need people to thrive in a just and equitable world. We can achieve lasting solutions to ocean health challenges only when communities drive solutions and when policies and laws are shaped by diverse and inclusive participation and leadership. The new ocean justice strategy is an important first step.” – Julie Packard, Executive Director, Monterey Bay Aquarium

“The Aquarium Conservation Partnership and our member aquariums and zoos are committed to elevating and centering the voices and participation of Indigenous and historically excluded communities in conservation, and we look forward to working with the Federal Government to ensure implementation and advancement of the Ocean Justice Strategy,” said Kim McIntyre, Executive Director, Aquarium Conservation Partnership. 

“We applaud the release of the Ocean Justice Strategy and its recognition of the unique role that aquariums play in shaping the work and moving from strategy to action. This is a historic step towards centering equity in ocean management and policy, but it is just the beginning. As a leading research and education institution, we will continue to convene, listen to, and amplify the voices of historically excluded people. As a trusted community anchor, Mystic Aquarium will continue to work with our indigenous peoples and underserved communities to provide access and STEM education opportunities for all.” – Susette Tibus, President & CEO, Mystic Aquarium

“We applaud the Biden-Harris Administration on establishing the nation’s first Ocean Justice Strategy,” said Jennifer Driban, Chief Mission Officer at the National Aquarium. “It is informed by broad public input and makes clear that every federal agency is responsible for contributing to ocean justice. Meaningful and equitable engagement by all communities in ocean decision-making is critically necessary now more than ever on this ocean planet we all share.”

“Real change requires community involvement and inclusivity. Thank you to the Biden-Harris Administration for providing a forum so that we may continue to advocate for our oceans in an inclusive manner through the Ocean Justice Strategy. It is critical to capture all the voices that care, love, and depend on our oceans and freshwater ecosystems.” – Crislyn McKerron, Executive Director, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

“For conservation to be truly successful, it must be intersectional. Historically, not everyone has had a seat at the table where solutions are developed and decisions are made on how to manage important marine resources.  This blue planet serves as a source of nutrition, a way of life, a means of recreation and a place of cultural and spiritual importance for millions. Shedd Aquarium applauds the development of the Ocean Justice Strategy for putting front and center the voices of our most vulnerable communities.  Now we have a road map to truly prioritize equity in the Ocean Climate Action Plan in stewarding and safeguarding of aquatic species along the ocean and Great Lake shorelines.”  -Dr. Bridget C. Coughlin, President & CEO, John G. Shedd Aquarium

“Just as we tend to take the ocean for granted and often fail to recognize how our society, economy, identity, and our very existence all depend on the ocean, we also take for granted issues relating to equity, access, engagement, and justice across all communities and individuals.  The Ocean Justice Strategy succeeds in elevating and combining these two priorities for a stronger society and a healthier ocean, which are inextricably linked to each other.” – Jason Patlis, President & CEO, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

“We applaud the Biden-Harris administration in their efforts to create the Ocean Justice Strategy, centering equity and calling on all of us who work in this space to do the same. The Seattle Aquarium’s work to inspire marine conservation is a collaborative effort with the communities who visit us, and with whom we live and work. Together, we can act for our ocean, to ensure a resilient and just future for marine and human communities alike.” – Robert W. Davidson, President & CEO of the Seattle Aquarium

“All AZA-accredited aquariums work daily to inspire visitors, and their surrounding communities, to conserve and protect our world’s one ocean. This Ocean Justice Strategy is another step forward, bringing more voices and minds to the table, and creating the potential for more creative solutions.” -Dan Ashe, President & CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“The Biden-Harris administration recognizes that to secure a vital and vibrant ocean for future generations, all voices must be included. The Ocean Justice Strategy provides a much-needed framework for coastal communities, government agencies, local municipalities, and ocean conservation organizations like New England Aquarium to use as we work together to advance environmental justice and protect our ocean.”  -Vikki N. Spruill, President & CEO, New England Aquarium