Marine Conservation Biology Institute Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Marine Conservation Biology Institute

History and Accomplishments

Marine Conservation Biology Institute was founded in 1996 by Dr. Elliott Norse, the marine and forest conservation biologist who changed conservation two decades ago by defining maintaining biological diversity as conservation's overarching goal. He defined MCBI's goal as advancing the new science of marine conservation biology and promoting cooperation essential to protecting and restoring the Earth's biological integrity.

Since then, we held one of the first scientific forums that addressed the threat of bottom trawling to marine life, produced the first ranking of the ecological impacts of commercial fishing gears in the US and the first assessment of deep sea corals in US waters.  We have secured protection of marine life by encouraging President Clinton to launch the Marine Protected Areas Center, and played a critical role in President Bush’s proclamations creating Marine National Monuments in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and later in the Central Pacific. We also hosted the first two international symposia on marine conservation biology, published the world’s first text book on marine conservation biology, and more.


MCBI Accomplishments:

2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996



MCBI, working with NOAA's Marine Protected Areas Center, created the California Ocean Uses Atlas, the first map of the full range of significant human uses of the ocean in state and federal waters off the coast of California.


MCBI helped organize a workshop as part of the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative to work toward identifying an initial set of areas on the high seas that could meet the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) ecologically and biologically significant areas (EBSA) criteria.

MCBI hosted a workshop in Hawaii to determine the scientific needs for effective management of Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monuments.

MCBI awarded six Mia J. Tegner Memorial Research Grants in Marine Environmental History and Historical Marine Ecology to young and early-career scientists.

MCBI hosted a workshop to determine effective means to address surveillance and enforcement of high seas marine protected areas.

MCBI held a scientist's advocacy day, where we taught scientists how to advocate to protect marine ecosystems on Capitol Hill, during Capitol Hill Ocean's Week.

Sandra Brooke, Coral Conservation Director at MCBI, worked with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to create the Oculina Bank Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC) and Experimental Closed Area, protecting deep-water Oculina coral off the central East Coast of Florida.

MCBI releases new issue of Current: Ocean Acidification - From Ecological Impacts to Policy Opportunities. This issue highlights ocean acidification, the ongoing global scale changes in seawater chemistry caused largely by human combustion of fossil fuels.

MCBI, in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund, prepared scientific and policy analyses necessary to identify, nominate and advocate full protection for eight of the nine Pacific Islands sites designated by President Bush as marine national monuments in January 2009.  MCBI rallied scientific support for the President’s action by securing almost 200 signatures on a letter to the President.

  how we fish matters
  How We Fish Matters


MCBI releases How We Fish Matters: Addressing the Ecological Impacts of Canadian Fishing Gear which we worked on with our Canadian partners the Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society.

MCBI formed and helped lead a conservation coalition to develop ideas for, and promote introduction of, H.R. 6537, the Sanctuaries Enhancement Act, and bill to reform the National Marine Sanctuary Program.  MCBI President, Elliott Norse, testified on the bill before the House Natural Resources Committee.

MCBI successfully advocated for increased federal and state funding  for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, and launched a long-term campaign to improve the seal’s prospects for recovery.

MCBI played a key role in the development of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Management Plan, providing detailed comments on the draft.

MCBI hosts 3 symposium at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on bottom trawling, carbon sequestration, and sharks.


MCBI opens Hawaii Program Office to build on advocacy efforts for Marine Protected Areas and to spearhead protection of the Hawaiian monk seal

Partnering with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, MCBI limits trawling in the South Pacific

MCBI hosts symposia on ocean acidification and on the sustainability of deep-sea fishing at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

  coral report cover
  Status of Deep Sea Corals, 2006


Elliott Norse wins the Nancy Foster Award for Habitat Conservation

MCBI, in cooperation with SkyTruth, National Geographic Society and NOAA, publishes “From Sea to Shining Sea” the first map showing the full extent of the USA

MCBI plays a key role in the establishment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument

MCBI publishes the first assessment of the status of deep-sea corals of the US


MCBI releases Marine Priority Conservation Areas: Baja California to the Bering Sea, the first continental-scale vision of the ocean places most important to protect in North America

MCBI publishes the review of the history of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act

MCBI produces Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea’s Biodiversity, the first textbook in this new science


MCBI co-founds the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition to stop trawling on the world’s seamounts

MCBI releases the Scientists’ Statement on Protecting the World’s Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Ecosystems, signed by 1452 scientists from 69 countries

shifting gears cover
Shifting Gears, 2003


MCBI publishes a compilation of the Occurrences of Deep-Sea Corals in the Northeast Pacific

MCBI releases Shifting Gears, the first scientific study comparing the damage from 10 major commercial fishing methods


MCBI produces B2B 1.0 — a CD-ROM of physical, biological, and social data relevant to conservation planning within the Baja California to Bering Sea ecoregion.


MCBI holds the Second Symposium on Marine Conservation Biology in San Francisco

MCBI secures listing of the white abalone, the first marine invertebrate ever listed as an endangered species


MCBI spurs President Clinton to issue Executive Order 13158 on Marine Protected Areas


MCBI organizes a scientist workshop to identify priority areas for conservation in the Gulf of Maine

MCBI plays a key role in phasing out commercial fishing in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

  journal cover
  Conservation Biology issue on bottom trawling, 1998


The journal Conservation Biology publishes 7 scientific papers from MCBI's 1996 bottom trawling workshop

MCBI releases Troubled Waters: A Call for Action [PDF], signed by 1605 scientists from 70 countries


MCBI organizes the First Sympoisum on Marine Conservation Biology in Victoria BC, Canada


MCBI hosts the first scientific workshop on the Effects of Bottom Trawling on Marine Ecosystems

Marine ecologist Dr. Elliott Norse founds MCBI




Learn more about what MCBI is doing now to advance the science of marine conservation biology and protect marine ecosystems.