We defend marine species and habitat from overfishing, offshore oil drilling, the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, and a host of other threats — from the Sea of Cortez to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, the Hawaiian archipelago to Japan, and Antarctica north to the Arctic Circle.


Ocean waters cover three-quarters of the globe and are vast, mostly undiscovered havens for mysterious and diverse life. But the open oceans are also a free-for-all, barely regulated or policed. International laws to protect them are drastically inadequate to address threats like large-scale commercial fishing, which sweeps life out of the seas at unprecedented rates — often only to discard the unusable “bycatch.” Tragically, that discarded bycatch includes thousands of severely injured or slain sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals annually. Meanwhile the oceans are rising, warming and becoming more acidic because of our overreliance on fossil fuels. We’re working to tackle some of the biggest threats with strategic campaigns.  


• Scientific analysis
• Petitions and litigation to list species under federal law
• Litigation to establish critical habitat for species
• Fishing policy reform through advocacy and litigation
• Strategic litigation to protect habitat

  • Communications and media outreach • Public education


The Center’s Oceans program:

• Shut down the most destructive fisheries in the Pacific for endangered species — among others, the set-gillnet fishery off central California, including Monterey Bay, which drowned sea otters, harbor porpoises, elephant seals, sea lions, and seabirds; the California-based swordfish longline fishery, which killed leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles; and a lobster fishery that was starving Hawaiian monk seals.
• Secured federal protection for white abalone and elkhorn and staghorn corals, the first-ever marine invertebrates protected by the Endangered Species Act.
• Forced critical habitat protection of 120 million acres for polar bears; 685 miles of beaches and more than 300,000 square miles of ocean for loggerhead sea turtles; 7,000 square miles in Hawaii for Hawaiian monk seals; 2,500 square miles around Washington’s Puget Sound for southern resident killer whales; and 36,000 square miles of the Bering Sea for the world’s most endangered whales, North Pacific right whales.
• Filed a groundbreaking petition to regulate carbon dioxide impacts on the ocean under the Clean Water Act. CO2 is making ocean water acidic, posing huge threats to marine species and the ocean web of life. We’re also petitioning Hawaii, Alaska and other states to address the local contributors to ocean acidification and warming.
• Achieved Endangered Species Act protection for the Puget Sound orca and Southwest Alaska sea otter, Cook Inlet beluga whale, 22 species of corals and black abalone.
• Helped lead the fight against new offshore oil leases in the Arctic region and Gulf of Mexico with direct-action events in Alaska and New Orleans; regular guest editorials in major media outlets; and a presidential petition to protect federal waters from new drilling projects, which would prevent nearly 62 billion tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.
• Successfully sued the U.S. Navy over its indiscriminate use of sonar and explosions in the Pacific Ocean that were injuring whales and other marine mammals, forcing the military to develop new studies and plans to govern future operations.
• Uncovered and publicized the steeply rising number of whales being entangled in fishing gear along the West Coast and participated in a government-sponsored working group to help solve the problem.  

Get the latest on our work for biodiversity and learn how to help in our free weekly e-newsletter.

Check out our video on sea-level rise and its frightening implications.


According to a Center report, sea-level rise is a deadly threat to 233 protected species — from the Hawaiian monk seal to the loggerhead sea turtle. Learn more now.

Coral reef-dwelling fish like the orange clownfish — star of Finding Nemo — and seven colorful damselfish are imperiled by ocean acidification and warming. The Center is saving them — learn how.

Plastic never goes away. And it’s increasingly finding its way onto our beaches and into marine habitat for fish, whales, seals, birds and more. Find out what we're doing about it. 

When many think of corals, they think of the Caribbean or South Pacific. But there are corals off Alaska, too — as imperiled as they are beautiful. We're saving them from many threats — including offshore drilling.

The Arctic Ocean's sea ice and waters are habitat for many imperiled species, from polar bears to bowhead whales — and they all face the threat of dirty fossil-fuel development.  

Ocean waters trap huge volumes of CO2, the most prevalent greenhouse gas. See what ocean acidification is doing to our endangered oceans and what the Center is doing to help.

Oases of the ocean: We work to protect vulnerable coral reefs and the animals that need them to survive.

Casting too wide a net: The Center reforms problem fisheries that kill scores of sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals.



Contact the Oceans Program.
Banner photo © Robin Silver; orca courtesy NOAA