After 25 Years Of Ocean Conservation At Ocean Wise®, CEO Dr. John Nightingale To Retire At The End Of The Year

Vancouver, B.C. — After 25 years of groundbreaking work at the helm of the Vancouver Aquarium®, and Ocean Wise® its overarching, global ocean conservation organization, today Dr. John Nightingale announced his plan to retire at the end of the year. An international search to find the next Chief Executive Officer of Ocean Wise has now begun.

It’s been an amazing quarter-century, said Nightingale, calling his time at the Aquarium an adventure beyond what he could have possibly imagined. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a career doing work close to my heart: ocean conservation, raising public awareness, supporting leading science, and making use of that science to effect change during an era when our blue planet needed it most. I have also been so privileged to work with leading scientists, conservationists, incredible staff, board members, volunteers and patrons, all of whom have shared our vision for a sustainable aquatic world.”

Nightingale stepped into the leadership role at Vancouver Aquarium when founding director Dr. Murray Newman retired in 1993; he arrived here from his post as assistant director at the New York Aquarium, and over the years has been celebrated as a visionary for his innovations in aquarium management, ocean conservation and education, and environmental stewardship. Since then, he has led the organization as it refined its mission, increased attendance, and greatly expanded its science, conservation and public programs, culminating in the launch of Ocean Wise in 2017. Along the way, he initiated / co-founded the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Ocean Wise Sustainable Seafood Program and the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, among other initiatives. It was a natural evolution, said Nightingale.

“From day one, I have sincerely believed that organizations like Ocean Wise, and its flagship Vancouver Aquarium, have a critical role to play in conservation. We teach current and future generations about the life in our oceans with the hope they feel inspired to protect it. In this digital age, that connection to nature is needed like never before. But as our efforts grew over the years, so did our understanding that we must do more — time is running out for the world’s oceans. That’s why we launched Ocean Wise”.

For Nightingale, the launch of Ocean Wise, on World Oceans Day 2017, was the pinnacle of those efforts: the Aquarium that had always been a leader in conservation programming, research and education, moved to being a global conservation organization that also manages accredited aquariums. “Under Ocean Wise, we’ve made great strides. We’ve expanded our research programs, grown our education programs, expanded direct action efforts, and launched, a digital hub where we share captivating stories about the aquatic world and the champions who dedicate their lives to protecting underwater ecosystems.”

Randy Pratt, Chair of the Ocean Wise Board of Directors, said Nightingale leaves with an immense legacy. “From the very beginning, John knew that, by bringing the oceans to life for people, we would amaze, engage and inspire a community of ocean conservationists – and he was right,” said Pratt. “Over the last 25 years, our organization has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to his visionary leadership.”

Nightingale will stay on as CEO and president of Ocean Wise while the search is underway to find someone to lead the organization to even greater success. He will continue to advocate for the ocean, even as he moves on from his role.

“My passion for the ocean and for public engagement remains—I’ll continue to work for its protection and will continue to be Ocean Wise’s biggest fan. I look forward to watching it engage even more people around the world about the need for action. I am also excited to be able to delve deeper into roles like my appointment to Polar Knowledge Canada, helping the federal government steward its activities in critical ocean environments like the Arctic, and issues such as ocean plastics.”

As one of his final public engagement opportunities, Nightingale is excited to open one of the most creative exhibitions ever hosted at the Vancouver Aquarium — Douglas Coupland’s radical art installation Vortex — on May 18. The exhibition will take visitors on an imaginative journey to the Garbage Patch Vortex, immersing them in the ocean plastic pollution problem in a contemplative and transformative way. The exhibition is part of a multi-faceted campaign to reduce society’s dependence on single-use plastics and to curb plastic waste getting into the environment and our oceans.

“While Ocean Wise has evolved and grown, our mission remains the same: to spark interest and awareness in our oceans and in the threats they are facing. Vortex provides another impactful touchpoint for our visitors. It’s an incredible project and yet another example of the innovative ways Ocean Wise continues to evolve to engage more people in new ways. And it’s one more thing of which I am very proud.”

Ocean Wise®
Ocean Wise is the not-for-profit parent organization whose vision is a world in which oceans are healthy and flourishing.


Media Contact:                

Deana Lancaster

Communications Manager │ Ocean Wise

[email protected]



Media Contact

Amber Sessions
Ocean Wise