Interview with President of The Ocean Foundation – Mark Spalding

Mark Spalding - The Ocean Foundation

Photo credit: The Ocean Foundation

Saving Ocean Wildlife (SOW) is dedicated to protecting ocean wildlife throughout Southern California’s coastline and beyond and is a project of The Ocean Foundation (TOF). We recently interviewed Mark J. Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation for his perspectives on everything from remote work to employment opportunities for graduating seniors, and of course, ocean wildlife conservation.

Community foundation for the ocean

The Ocean Foundation is the only community foundation for the ocean, dedicated to “reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments around the world.”

Mark Spalding, President of TOF since 2003, has an extensive background in international environmental policy and law. After working in the corporate world, Mark decided to pursue his passion for the ocean in the classroom.

While he taught university classes, Mark got involved in ocean work, marine mammal work, and fisheries work for all kinds of nonprofit and philanthropic foundations. “I had a blast doing it,” said Mark.

Around 2002, the creation of The Ocean Foundation was in the works. The future president backed out, and Mark was asked to step in and head the foundation in Washington D.C..

SOW is the newest project of TOF, which has grantees in forty countries and on all seven continents. Pre-COVID-19, it was normal for Mark to “wake up in London and by the end of the week be in Zanzibar,” he said.

To the young people graduating into an unstable and seemingly unpredictable world due to COVID-19, Mark says a shift away from travel and to more remote work could potentially be permanent. However, this is not necessarily a negative change. He insists, “As scary as all of the current instability feels, there are going to be lots of opportunities.”

Non-profit environmental jobs

At the most basic level, nonprofit jobs exist to make a difference. With current environmental threats, there has never been a better time to support positive change. As noted by Mark, “We are going to be pushed constantly by the planet itself and by circumstance to do a better job. If you want to join a nonprofit and help that happen, you are going to have plenty of work, even if it (employment) looks scarce right now.”

Making a difference for the ocean

For the rest of us looking to make a difference through changes in our own lives, Spalding has some advice.

The ocean used to be full of resources that have since been depleted by overfishing and the negative effects of pollution and climate change. However, Mark says we shouldn’t focus on conservation, or holding the line and “preserving” the environment. “The most pressing issue we can tackle right now is restoring ocean abundance,” Mark declared.

We need to rehabilitate the ocean to its former health and prosperity. To do this, we can take three types of action. First, we need to stop putting bad stuff such as plastics and petroleum products, into the ocean. Reducing your carbon footprint, using public transportation, riding a bike, and walking more will all minimize the “bad stuff” output. Be mindful of unnecessary plastic purchases and try something new, like indoor composting.

Our second step is to stop taking the good stuff out of the ocean. This can be most easily accomplished by educating yourself about what you are eating. Choose sustainable seafood from reputable brands that care about the ocean. Each dollar you spend is a step forward, but it is up to you in which direction you are walking.

Lastly, participate! Make ocean health a priority in your life. Whether or not you live near a shore, all waterways lead to the ocean. Find an organization in your area and volunteer, clean a beach, or donate to a nonprofit that is helping the ocean.

Partnering to save the ocean

“The Ocean Foundation is proud to work with so many projects around the world.  We are very excited for our new partnership with Saving Ocean Wildlife as they are providing the much-needed service of engaging the community in reporting on wildlife sightings.  By getting many eyes on the ocean, more information is gathered and provided to the agencies that help protect and survey these animals” said Mark.

The Ocean Foundation is an example of a collective effort to move the needle in a positive direction. In conclusion, Mark stated that change is absolutely required, it is not optional. We are going to be pushed constantly by the planet itself and by circumstance to do a better job.

We can all step up and lend a hand to create a true blue ocean that provides for stronger, more resilient communities. As is often said, “many hands make for light work.” So, join us and help co-create a better tomorrow.  No matter where you live or what you do, everyone can be a part of this positive change. Visit the Saving Ocean Wildlife resources page for more suggestions.  During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ocean needs your support now more than ever.

FREE Ocean wildlife guide!

Click here for your free guide to learn about the animals and find out which are endangered.


Report Ocean Animals Dead or in Distress
 If you see it, PLEASE say it!  Use our handy reporting tool any time you come across a dead or distressed ocean animal.  This will immediately notify NOAA so they can get the appropriate organization involved to help remove or free the animal in need!


Ten Personal Actions You Can Take
Whether it is through a donation of time, money or resources or picking-up plastic trash, here are ten ideas for your personal action plan to save ocean wildlife!

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