Posts Tagged 'chief conservation officer'

An Exciting Week for Ocean Conservation

This is an exciting time for the National Aquarium to be stepping up its engagement in the ocean conservation arena.  We are fortunate to be a part of several special events this month calling national and international attention to some very important issues.

National Aquarium is proud to have sponsored and be participating in Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2014, an event that promotes dialogue among all sectors of the ocean community and with the public around critical current issues. After three days of inspiring conversation, we look forward to being a part of the next steps as we help improve ocean health, protect special ocean places, ensure sustainable fisheries and plan for new uses like renewable energy production.  We applaud our partners at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for hosting another great ocean conservation event.

The momentum continues, and I am pleased to have been invited to represent the National Aquarium at the Department of State’s Our Ocean Conference next week. More than ever, our ocean conservation challenges require work at the international scale.  Protecting ocean health, managing migratory fish stocks and ensuring sustainable fisheries increasingly require coordination among countries and local communities around the globe.

Focused on the key pillars of Sustainable Fisheries, Marine Pollution, and Ocean Acidification, the conference will convene an international audience around pressing environmental issues.  Many of these same issues are also at the forefront of the National Aquarium’s conservation priorities.  This meeting of the minds aims to develop innovative solutions to some of the oceans’ biggest problems.

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To highlight the forward-thinking solutions being sought, the event kicks-off this weekend with a Fishackathon.  Along with three other sites across the US, National Aquarium will convene hackers, coders, and other IT specialists to work on solutions to fisheries management problems in developing countries.  We are delighted to be a host site to facilitate the use of modern technology to address sustainable fishery issues in this new and exciting way.

I will not be the only National Aquarium presence at Our Oceans Conference – volunteer youth from our Climate Change Interpreters high school program will be assisting NOAA staff at the Science on a Sphere station in the expo hall.  Delegates from around the world will be able to learn how the National Aquarium uses this technology to engage our guests in active and solution-focused conversations around climate change.  In the past four years over 350 high school volunteers have become skilled in these communication techniques.  We are proud to have these outstanding young people represent our organization!

The Our Ocean Conference may be by invitation only, but engaging in ocean conservation is not.   Make your voice heard through social media campaigns or public comments on environmental legislation.  Or, take direct action by pledging to make a change in the things that each of us does daily in support of our oceans.  Volunteering for a a local conservation project, energy conservation, Bay friendly landscaping and wise seafood choices are just a few of the things each of us can do to support conservation of our oceans. To learn more about opportunities to take action, click here 

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2013 Re-cap: Great Conservation Moments

The National Aquarium is a 33-year-old conservation organization with one mission: to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures.

Everyday, we live our mission through our exhibits, conservation in the field, education and animal rescue!

As 2013 comes to a close, we’d like to share some of our favorite conservation moments from the past year:

Maryland Shark Fin Bill

In May, Maryland became the first state on the East Coast to prohibit the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins!

maryland shark fin bill

Maryland’s new law is helping to curb the unjust killing of approximately 100 million sharks every year. Our legislative and conservation teams worked very closely with state officials on this important bill.

Over the last year, we were excited to see Maryland, Delaware and New York join California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington in granting sharks this crucial protection.

Animal Rescue Team’s 100th Release

In June, our Animal Rescue team reached an exciting milestone – their 100th release!

national aquarium animal rescue 100th release

As #100, a green sea turtle named Willard, made his way to the water, our team was able to reflect on the last twenty years of care, ’round the clock rescue and treatment, and releases.

Each of the animals that we’ve cared for over the years, from a pygmy sperm whale to seals and sea turtles, has an incredible story. There’s no better triumph for our team than their return into the wild!

The Sea Turtle Trek

In April, our Animal Rescue team joined their colleagues from the New England Aquarium to transport and release 52 endangered sea turtles off the coast of Florida.

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The 1,200 mile road trip was lovingly named the “Sea Turtle Trek.” The entire journey, filled with lots of driving and midnight stops to pick up turtles from other institutions along the East Coast, could only be described as a labor of love.

Did you miss out on our live updates from the road? Check them out here!

Our First-Ever Chief Conservation Officer

In July, Eric Schwaab joined the National Aquarium as our first-ever Chief Conservation Officer! This newly-created position has been developed to lead our efforts in becoming a national leader in aquatic conservation and environmental stewardship.

national aquarium chief conservation officer

“We are committed to telling the conservation story more effectively…we want to use these exhibits to inspire greater appreciation and conservation action, among visitors, throughout the community and even among those who have not yet visited here in Baltimore” – Eric Schwaab

Want to get more insight into Eric’s future plans for the National Aquarium? Check out our interview with him here!

James Cameron Visits Washington, DC

In June, ocean pioneer and Academy-Award winning filmmaker, James Cameron, visited the nation’s capital as part of his DeepSea America Tour.

James Cameron DC Visit

The purpose of this nation-wide trek, with his submersible the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, was to inspire future generations of ocean explorers!

Our CEO John Racanelli and education team were delighted to be on-site during Cameron’s stop to engage the community in STEM education.

The Endangered Species Act Turns 40!

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Enacted by Congress in 1973, this legislation provides protection for species that are endangered or threatened and conserves the habitats their survival depends upon.

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Zoos and Aquariums, including National Aquarium, work closely with the federal government to both conserve habitats and raise public awareness of these amazing species.

In the last few decades, the Act has successfully prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species it protects – making it one of the most effective conservation laws in our nation’s history!

Masonville Cove Becomes First Urban Widlife Refuge

In September, the US Fish & Wildlife Service named Masonville Cove the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge.

Masonville Cove

This new initiative is an effort to make more of our country’s beautiful, natural areas accessible to all populations, especially urban ones!

Ultimately, the goal is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Here’s how YOU can support our conservation mission! 

Thoughtful Thursdays: Get to Know Our Chief Conservation Officer

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On July 1st, Eric Schwaab joined the National Aquarium as our (first-ever) Senior Vice President and our Chief Conservation Officer. This newly-created position was developed to lead the Aquarium’s efforts in becoming a national leader in aquatic conservation and environmental stewardship.

Upon his appointment, Aquarium CEO John Racanelli said, “We are dedicated to our mission of inspiring conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. Eric’s wealth of experience and passion will help us expand and better promote conservation action to protect the ocean, our planet’s life support system.”

Now that he’s a couple of months into his new role, I sat down with him to discuss his thoughts and plans!

Tell us a little about your background and why this work is important to you.

Eric Schwaab: I grew up in the Baltimore area and have many great memories of fishing, crabbing, boating and swimming on Maryland’s Atlantic Coast and in the Chesapeake Bay. Later in college I connected again to the natural world through work at Piney Run Park in Carroll County. That was the point that I really know that I wanted to make natural resource conservation a career focus. I have been very fortunate to realize that goal. Before coming to National Aquarium earlier this summer I was serving as the acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management for the US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) overseeing work on a range of national fisheries, coastal and ocean issues. Immediately before that, as Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA, I was responsible for directing the National Marine Fisheries Service in its work on science, management and conservation of federal fisheries, marine mammals, sea turtles and other protected resources within the United States. I led the agency’s work to end overfishing, implement “catch share” management programs to better align the interests of commercial fishing businesses with conservation goals, and efforts to improve coastal and ocean habitat conservation.

Prior to your work in the federal government, you were the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDDNR) and had previously served in other DNR capacities. What did these experiences teach you that will prepare you for your new role at the Aquarium?

ES: Working on conservation issues in a populated state like Maryland really forces you to understand the role that people must play in protecting our environment. We also live in a state where most people place great value on their natural surroundings. Chesapeake Bay conservation efforts in particular unite us, as we understand that mountain streams, forests and farms, and our urban and suburban communities all play roles in ensuring clean water and healthy habitats for fish, crabs and oysters. I have been fortunate to have had the chance to work closely with legislative leaders, state agencies, local governments and local residents across Maryland to support important state conservation initiatives, including Chesapeake Bay restoration, forest conservation, park land protection and fisheries conservation.

What interested you most about this position?

ES: Ultimately if we can show people what healthy bays, oceans, streams, and coral reefs look like, we have a good start toward inspiring them to do their part to make sure we have more “out there” of what they love here at the Aquarium. Through our exhibits and our current work in conservation and science, National Aquarium is helping to redefine the role of public aquariums as catalysts for tangible change in how people care for oceans and aquatic systems. Our role as a trusted source of information and our ability to communicate with millions of people annually provide significant opportunities to influence public policy and personal behavior on behalf of sustainable ocean conservation. I look forward to helping to lead that work.

You’ve held some pretty important positions within both the state and federal governments. With that experience, what is the most important thing you’ve learned?

ES: Even in high level state and federal government positions, real conservation commitment and action occurs at the local level. While effective conservation action depends upon sound science, effective strategies and rigorous attention to results, the most important ingredient is still local commitment to action. Having people who value natural resources and understand the strong, inherent relationship between a healthy environment and healthy communities and sustainable economies is critical. We see this everywhere today. Whether in the form of resilient coasts, sustainable fisheries or popular natural tourist attractions, communities gain when natural resources are healthy.

What is the biggest challenge we face in improving the health of our oceans?

ES: Understanding that we all must do our part. Climate change, ocean acidification and warming, depletion of fish stocks, and many of our remaining pollution challenges result from the cumulative actions of many individuals. These problems will not be addressed solely through some government program or “that other guy” behaving differently. We each have to take some responsibility for energy conservation, reducing fossil fuel emissions, maintaining healthy watersheds and making smart purchasing decisions if we are to sustain the resources we depend on and care about.

Much of your recent work has dealt with sustainable fisheries. What is the one thing you would like our readers to (understand or do) with regards to taking responsibility towards healthy fish populations?

ES: We have made a lot of progress nationally in ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted stocks. And while there is still work to do here and abroad, the bigger challenges to fisheries sustainability here and around the world are in declining health of coastal and ocean habitats. The best fishery management in the world will fall short if we do not take care of our coasts and oceans.

What are the next steps for National Aquarium’s Conservation Department?

We are committed to telling the conservation story more effectively. The feature exhibits here represent ecosystems that are threatened here in the Bay region and around the world. We want to use these exhibits to inspire greater appreciation and conservation action, among visitors, throughout the community and even among those who have not yet visited here in Baltimore. We also want to be more directly involved in conservation research, policy and action. We will be growing our work on important conservation science, policy and management issues, taking advantage of our experts in Baltimore and Washington, DC and enhance partnerships with others involved in this important work. And we will be seeking your help through member support and engagement.

If you could ask the reader to do one thing to improve our natural world, what would that be?

ES: Stop, look and appreciate all the natural world has to offer – – everything else will follow.

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We’ve Hired Our First-Ever Chief Conservation Officer

eric schwaabWe’re excited to announce Eric Schwaab as our first-ever Senior Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer (CCO). With a realignment of priorities that emphasizes an updated conservation mission, Schwaab’s appointment represents the Aquarium’s new dedication to serve as a national leader in ocean preservation and environmental stewardship.

“With the confirmation of Eric Schwaab as our Chief Conservation Officer, we are setting an agenda for National Aquarium’s future,” said John Racanelli, National Aquarium CEO. “We are dedicated to our mission of inspiring conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. Eric’s wealth of experience and passion will help us expand and better promote conservation action to protect the ocean, our planet’s life support system.”

As CCO, Schwaab, who assumes responsibilities July 1, will provide strategic vision and leadership for the National Aquarium’s Conservation and Science Division, a team of 130 professionals, engaging in initiatives ranging from field conservation and biological programs to legislative advocacy and animal rescue.

Schwaab currently serves as Acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management for the US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In this role he works closely with Congress, other agency leaders, partner organizations and local communities to develop policies and take conservation action to ensure sustainable federal fisheries, promote coastal stewardship and enhance protection of ocean habitats. Previously, as Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA from 2010-2012, Schwaab directed the National Marine Fisheries Service. He was responsible for science, management and conservation of federal fisheries, marine mammals, sea turtles and other protected resources within the United States. Schwaab led the agency’s national requirement to end overfishing, the implementation of “catch share” management programs to better align the interests of commercial fishing businesses with conservation goals, and efforts to improve coastal and ocean habitat conservation.

The National Aquarium is changing the way the world views conservation by instilling a sense of urgency on issues that affect aquatic ecosystems worldwide, including the Chesapeake Bay. In the ocean policy arena, the National Aquarium has recently focused its efforts on a ban on the sale and trade of shark fins, offshore wind development, plastic and beverage container deposits and watershed conservation.

“Through its current work in conservation and science, National Aquarium is redefining the role of public aquaria as catalysts for tangible change in how people care for oceans and aquatic systems,” said Schwaab. “The Aquarium’s role as a trusted source of information and its ability to communicate with millions of people annually provide significant opportunities to influence public policy and personal behavior on behalf of sustainable ocean conservation. I look forward to leading this charge.”

Prior to his work with NOAA, Schwaab spent three years as Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where he worked extensively with legislative leaders and other agencies to support important state conservation initiatives, including Chesapeake Bay restoration, forest and park land conservation and fisheries rebuilding. Schwaab’s 20 plus years of conservation stewardship in Maryland also include service as Director of the Fisheries Service (1999-2003); Director of the Forest, Wildlife & Heritage Service (1995-1999); Director of the Forest Service (1992-1995); and Chief of Resource Management for Maryland Forest & Park Service (1989-1992). From 2003 into 2007, Schwaab served as Resource Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, coordinating conservation work on behalf of fish and wildlife agencies across North America.

Schwaab, who currently serves as the NOAA Administrator designee on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from McDaniel College and a Master of Arts degree in Geography and Environmental Planning from Towson University. He also completed a leadership program for senior executives in state and local government at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


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