Earth Day 2023: Community and conservation with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Julie Packard

Marine biologist, activist, and co-founder of the Monterey Bay Aquarium shares three ways to support ocean health.

By Lauren Grayson — April 21, 2023

Managing Earth’s warming climate means understanding the critical role the ocean plays. Not only does it help regulate its temperature, the health of the planet is deeply interconnected with the health of its ocean. Yet, it faces threats too numerous to count, including overfishing, ecosystem degradation, warming waters, a surge in single-use plastics, rising sea levels, and endangered species.  But the ocean offers hope, too, as scientists and environmental advocates look to this vast resource and its 2.2 million known species in search of solutions.

One of the leaders in ocean conservation and restoration is the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Northern California. Since its founding more than 50 years ago, the organization is recognized as being a model of community action and engagement earned through decades of ocean life rehabilitation, research, and the revival of its local waters, which are home to large populations of sardines, whales, and sea otters.

Hoping to encourage others to do the same for their own local waterways is Julie Packard, marine biologist, executive director and co-founder of Monterey Bay Aquarium — and daughter of HP co-founder David Packard. She recently joined HP to celebrate Earth Day and raise awareness of the great need for ocean conservation through community action.

“Over time as the ocean changed, we updated [our mission] to inspiring conservation,” Packard says. “The thing about the ocean is that when people engage and take action, it can recover.” 

Packard sat down with Alex Cho, president of Personal Systems at HP, for a fireside chat about three ways in which it’s well within our power to protect the planet.

“The thing about the ocean is that when people engage and take action, it can recover.”

— Julie Packard, executive director and co-founder of Monterey Bay Aquarium, and daughter of HP’s co-founder, David Packard

Buy sustainable seafood

Purchasing sustainably sourced seafood is just one easy way to make a difference and feel better about what’s on the dinner table.

To help discourage fishing practices that endanger marine wildlife populations, consumers can drive change in the marketplace by voting with their forks. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch publishes guides and research tools that make it easier to find responsibly sourced seafood from any location.

“Buying sustainable seafood is not just a matter of keeping fish populations afloat, it's also a matter of global food security,” Packard says. “People are realizing that we really need to think more deeply about who's being most impacted by environmental degradation.”

Support eco-conscious retailers and brands

More consumer brands, like Walmart, Costco, Safeway, and Wild Planet Foods, are joining forces to fight the climate crises by committing to only sell sustainably-sourced seafood. Exploring and investing in companies that support eco-friendly fishing alternatives, such as aquaculture, is another  impactful way to make a difference.

According to Packard, supporting businesses that aim to create lasting change for the planet is a huge step in the right direction.

“Do not underestimate the power of business leadership,” she says. “That, in my opinion, is the biggest lever that we have in terms of finding solutions.”

Julie Packard sitting beside Alex Cho and listening intently.

Steven Gregory

Julie Packard and Alex Cho discuss ocean conservation efforts and the future of environmentalism.

Raise up the next generation of researchers

Caring for the environment also includes advocating for diversity.

Donating to or getting involved with organizations, like the National Science Foundation or the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, helps generate pipelines for minority students to not only gain access to, but thrive in STEM. In turn, driving diverse ideas, research, and solutions that account for the needs of a larger population, not just a select few.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium partners with local schools to develop the Teen Conservation Leaders Program (TCL), an initiative that offers future environmentalists volunteer opportunities, paid internships and hands-on experiences over the summer. 

“We have a big focus on raising more money for creating opportunities, both on the job and out of the Aquarium, towards career path development for the diversity of students in California and beyond,” Packard says. “We all need to learn from each other and work together to get where we want to be.”


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