Gulf of Mexico
Members of the Coastal Wildlife Network safely release sea turtles back into the water. As a CWN participant, Audubon Nature Institute responds to stranded sea turtles and marine mammals along the Louisiana coast. PJ Hahn

LA - Audubon Nature Institute working to improve ocean health and protect marine life

Audubon Nature Institute is taking steps to help address the damage being done to the Gulf of Mexico and the world’s oceans because of climate change and pollution.

The impacts of climate change are numerous, said John Fallon, Audubon Nature Institute’s Director of Sustainability and Coastal Conservation. They include coral reefs dying due to higher temperatures, rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes, and species losing critical habitat.

“Fish and marine animals are on the move to adapt to climate change, which can alter all kinds of dynamics in the ecosystem and with people,” Fallon said. “We see animals shifting to cooler waters, increasing interactions with humans in new areas. Predators like polar bears are losing the ice they hunt on. Penguins and sea lions are having to travel farther from land as their prey move, which becomes dangerous for them as they expend more energy to hunt.”

In addition, research shows that pollution from fertilizer runoff that ends up in oceans can fuel a chain of events that led to hypoxic “dead zones,” or areas along the sea floor where oxygen levels are so low that they cannot sustain marine life. This year, the Gulf of Mexico dead zone is estimated to be larger than Connecticut.

But there is hope. As part of its conservation mission and together with partners across the country, Audubon Nature Institute is stepping up to improve Gulf of Mexico and ocean health. Audubon participates in the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP), a group of aquariums working together to advance conservation goals in the areas of climate change, wildlife and ecosystem protection, fisheries and aquaculture, and plastic reduction. Audubon has signed onto the ACP Join Climate Commitment, pledging to reduce its carbon footprint and work towards net zero emissions.

As part of that commitment, Audubon has begun a comprehensive greenhouse gas scoping project. The Institute will share information with the community as that work progresses.

“We are at the very beginning of the process, which is compiling baseline data to get a comprehensive look at our energy use across all of our facilities,” Fallon explained. “Based on those results, we will create an action plan to reduce our emissions over time.”

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