Want to help protect rivers, the sea and oceans? Here are the best marine conservation charities to support in the UK right now.
Like many of our planet’s habitats, the world’s oceans are facing major environmental challenges. From issues such as plastic pollution, overfishing, and rising sea temperatures – our oceans, seas and rivers are under greater threat than ever before.
We all have a responsibility to protect our oceans and the precious marine creatures they contain. Whilst the task at hand can seem overwhelming on an individual level, one of the best ways to help is to support a marine conservation charity.
These charities use the power of collective voices to campaign and lobby the government for policies that help to protect our oceans and the wildlife they are home to. Where one voice may not be as effective, charities can use the voices of their members to demand action. This can be difficult for those in power to ignore.
If you’re looking for the best marine conservation charities, I’ve put together a rundown of some of the most impactful organisations in the UK that promote marine conservation. I’ve summarised their mission and focus areas, to help you find the right charity for you, as well as the different ways you can support their cause.
Let’s dive in!
The Best Marine Conservation Charities
Use the quick links below to skip to information about each charity, or keep reading for the full post:
- Sea Shepherd UK
- Marine Conservation Society
- Surfers Against Sewage
- Ocean Conservation Trust
- Sea Changers
- The Shark Trust
- Whale & Dolphin Conservation
- Friends Of The Earth
- Blue Marine Foundation
- Blue Ventures
- UOcean 2050 Project
- The Sea Life Trust
- The Reef-World Foundation
Sea Shepherd UK
Established in 2005, Sea Shepherd UK is a marine conservation charity with a mission to defend, conserve and protect ocean wildlife and habitats from destruction and illegal killing.
The charity cleans up lost and discarded fishing gear and removes harmful debris from the UK’s coastline and rivers. It also investigates illegal operations, exposes cruelty around the world – such as the Faroese drive hunts and commercial whaling activities in Iceland – and documents the exploitation of marine wildlife. When necessary Sea Shepherd UK also engages in direct action and mounts innovative legal challenges to help save our oceans.
There are many ways to support the charity. You can volunteer your time by joining its UK-wide team of volunteers.
If you’d rather donate money, then one-off donations can be made through bank transfer, Paypal and JustGiving. Or if you’d like to regularly donate, then you can set up a monthly direct debit.
Sea Shepherd UK is also listed with several workplace giving schemes. This includes Benevity, Macquarie Group Foundation, the Charities Trust, Charitable Giving, Liverpool Charitable and Voluntary Services and many more.
Marine Conservation Society
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is a UK-based charity that works with businesses, governments and communities towards cleaner, better protected and healthier oceans.
Founded in 1983, one of the charity’s key campaigns is to stop pollution entering our oceans. It tracks the health of our waters, influences business practices and calls for better environmental regulations. For pollution already in our waterways, MCS’s volunteer beach cleans remove and record litter on coastlines.
MCS is also working to help secure space where species and habitats can recover. One key piece of work is campaigning for a minimum of 30% of UK waters to be effectively managed by 2030. This will help to protect wildlife and ecosystems.
Fishing is also a key issue for the charity. MCS promotes sustainable fishing and seafood to reduce harm. It supports businesses to catch, produce and source seafood sustainably and incorporate conservation into their work. And to help people make better seafood-buying choices, it publishes its Good Fish Guide. This highlights the most and least sustainable fish to eat at any given time.
There are heaps of ways to get involved in supporting MCS’s important work. From taking part in beach cleans or recording wildlife sightings, to volunteering, supporting campaigns or donating financially, there are many ways to help.
Surfers Against Sewage
Set up in 1990 by a group of Cornish surfers, Surfers Against Sewage has grown to be a UK-wide charity. Now this marine conservation charity works with communities across the British Isles to protect oceans, waves, beaches and marine life.
Campaigning on key issues such as sewage, plastic pollution, the climate emergency and ocean recovery, its community of nationwide Ocean Activists all fight to see the ocean thrive.
Through campaigning and education programmes, Surfers Against Sewage aim to confront the issues affecting the seas head-on. From the beachfront to the front benches and everywhere in between.
Want to get involved? From signing petitions and taking part in cleans, to emailing your MP to demand action, and protesting against water companies, there are all sorts of ways you can be an Ocean Activist.
Ocean Conservation Trust
The Ocean Conservation Trust is a Plymouth-based marine charity that seeks to restore and protect the ocean, centred around people and positive action.
Its key focus is on encouraging ocean-friendly behaviours and habitat restoration. As such, the Trust’s team of marine biologists, educators, communicators, researchers, ecologists, oceanographers and divers work tirelessly to connect people to the ocean and influence people to take action.
The Ocean Conservation Trust’s advocacy work also encourages everyone – from individuals and communities to industry and government – to think about their impact on the ocean and make choices with the health of the ocean in mind.
There are many ways that you can get involved with the Ocean Conservation Trust. These include participating in social media campaigns, fundraising and/or donating money, volunteering and more.
Sea Changers is a Leicester-based marine conservation charity that seeks to create a world where the seas and shores are clean and healthy and marine species are protected.
It aims to do this through three key areas of work:
- Harnessing people’s love for the sea, and inspiring them to contribute positively to its sustainability.
- Enabling businesses that care about the marine environment to make a difference
- Funding grassroots marine conservation projects through business partnerships.
Since 2011, Sea Changers has funded over 250 marine conservation projects all around the UK. This includes projects that carry out marine research or focus on direct action or education.
The charity recognises that a range of actions and solutions is required to create the change that is needed to ensure the future health and sustainability of our oceans. As such, all of its funded projects meet one or more of the following objectives:
- To address the root causes of marine conservation threats and challenges in the UK
- To prevent or reduce negative impacts on UK coastal and marine environments and/or species
- To improve knowledge about marine conservation threats and challenges in the UK.
Get involved by donating your time or giving a one-off or regular donation, or sharing its posts on social media.
You can even choose to support Sea Changers when you sell on eBay by selecting Sea Changers as your favourite charity. This means that every time you sell an item, buyers will be asked if they would like to make a small donation to Sea Changers. Plus, you can choose to donate a percentage of the item’s selling price to Sea Changers.
The Shark Trust
The Shark Trust is a UK-based marine conservation charity. Founded in 1997, it is dedicated to promoting the study, management and conservation of sharks, skates and rays, both in the UK and internationally.
The charity has a vision of a future where sharks thrive within a globally healthy marine ecosystem. This means all of the Shark Trust’s projects, campaigns, and policy actions drive progress towards three key goals:
- Species protection – protecting endangered shark species through legislation and effective conservation action.
- Fisheries management – transforming fisheries to prevent population decline in shark species through overfishing.
- Responsible trade – promoting responsible trade in shark products, and reducing demand for non-sustainable shark products.
The Shark Trust say that there are many pieces that make up the big picture. As such, a positive future for sharks relies on all the pieces coming together. To do so, The Shark Trust works with governments, industry, scientists, and other charities to help create positive change.
Want to start helping to save the sharks? There are lots of ways you can get involved and support the Shark Trust. For example, you can become a member or citizen scientist, or you can donate or take part in fundraising and events. You can even adopt a shark!
Whale & Dolphin Conservation
Whale & Dolphin Conservation, formerly known as the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, is a marine conservation charity that is dedicated solely to the worldwide conservation and welfare of all whales, dolphins and porpoises.
With a vision of a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free, the charity seeks to end the captivity of whales and dolphins for human entertainment. For example, it has successfully campaigned for holiday companies to stop selling trips to SeaWorld and other aquariums.
It also wants to see the end of commercial whaling in Japan, Norway and Iceland, which still goes on illegally. The charity takes part in international meetings, like the International Whaling Commission, to stop commercial whaling operations and put the protection and conservation of all whales and dolphins on the top of government agendas.
The charity additionally wants to create healthy seas – which are currently threatened by commercial fishing, oil and gas drilling and shipping. In recent years it has successfully lobbied the Scottish government to double the number of marine protected areas for whales and dolphins. It has also successfully lobbied the US government to increase protective measures for Right whales. This includes expanding their protected habitat by 40,000 square miles.
And it wants to prevent the death of dolphins and whales in nets, as each year hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins are accidentally caught and killed by commercial fishing fleets every year. Thanks to Whale & Dolphin Conservation’s work, six protected areas for harbour porpoises are now in the process of designation around the UK.
Want to help with this impressive work? You can get involved by adopting a whale or dolphin, donating, fundraising, volunteering, taking part in events, supporting campaigns and more.
Founded in 1971, Greenpeace is a global movement of people who are passionate about defending the natural world from destruction. Its vision is a greener, healthier and more peaceful planet – one that can sustain life for generations to come.
The charity does not accept any funding from governments, corporations or political parties. Instead, its work is funded by ordinary people. That means Greenpeace is free to confront governments and corporations responsible for the destruction of the natural world and push for real change.
Greenpeace does this by investigating, documenting and exposing the causes of environmental destruction. It works to bring about change by lobbying, utilising consumer pressure and mobilising members of the general public. And it takes peaceful direct action to protect the Earth and promote solutions for a green and peaceful future.
Whilst Greenpeace takes action on many environmental issues and isn’t a dedicated marine conservation charity, it does a lot of work to help protect rivers, seas and oceans. Greenpeace works to tackle plastic pollution. It also works to ban deep-sea mining, and campaigns for the implementation of sustainable fishing practices, the creation of ocean sanctuaries, and more.
Friends Of The Earth
Friends of the Earth is an environmental campaigning community, that since 1971, has been dedicated to the well-being and protection of the natural world and everyone in it.
From its campaigners and lawyers to local action groups and supporters, this charity pushes for change in environmental causes that matter. This includes empowering local people to make their communities better for everyone and fighting for environmental and social justice globally.
Like Greenpeace, Friends Of The Earth isn’t a dedicated marine conservation charity. Instead, it takes action on a wide range of environmental issues. However, I’ve included Friends Of The Earth because of its important work in tackling plastics and overfishing – two main threats to our oceans.
Blue Marine Foundation
London-based Blue Marine Foundation wants to restore the ocean by addressing the problem of overfishing. As such, it is dedicated to creating marine reserves, restoring vital habitats and establishing models of sustainable fishing.
Its mission is to see at least 30% of the world’s oceans under effective protection by 2030 and the other 70% managed in a responsible way.
It works by:
- Securing marine protected areas to ensure the protection of at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.
- Developing models of sustainable fishing. The aim of this is to prove that low-impact fishing benefits marine life, local fishers and communities.
- Restoring marine habitats to revive and protect vulnerable and threatened species and to capture carbon.
- Tackling unsustainable fishing by highlighting poor practices and developing sustainable solutions.
- Connecting people with the sea and enhancing ocean understanding across generations.
So far this marine conservation charity has secured commitments to protect over 4 million square kilometres of ocean, through 21 project locations all over the world.
You can help support this ocean charity by donating money on a one-off or regular basis, or by becoming a friend of Blue Marine.
Blue Ventures is a Bristol-based marine conservation charity focused on promoting locally-led marine conservation. It supports coastal fishers in remote and rural communities to sustainably manage their fishing operations. This in turn helps to restore ocean life and build lasting pathways to economic sustainability and improve food security.
The charity currently works across more than a dozen countries, where it is supporting communities to establish, steward and protect vast swathes of coastal waters in Locally Managed Marine Areas.
Blue Ventures also works to guide national fisheries policy in the countries that it works in. As such, it advocates for policies that safeguard the interests of traditional fishing communities, as well as policies that promote human rights in conservation.
You can support the charity by donating a one-off or regular sum of money. Alternatively, you can sponsor scholarships for tomorrow’s conservation leaders.
UOcean 2050 Project
The UOcean 2050 Project is a marine conservation charity that works with individuals, businesses and communities to remove plastics from the ocean and recycle them. It’s also working towards the wider mission of stopping ocean plastics globally.
UOcean currently works in over 33 countries, removing marine plastics from canals, rivers and beaches. Its initial goal is to remove 1 billion kilos of marine plastics by 2030. It also wants to implement 1000 river barriers across the planet, potentially stopping 80% of plastics from reaching the ocean.
If you’d like to support UOcean 2050 you can volunteer to join its clean-up operations. Organisations are also offered the chance, through corporate sponsorship, to support its clean-up efforts.
MARINElife is a science charity that monitors the health of the ocean. It conducts regular Ocean Health Checks, gathering information on key marine species so they can be better protected.
MARINElife carries out scientifically robust surveys of dolphins, whales and seabirds. These surveys are carried out by trained volunteers, on a variety of vessels at sea in the UK and bordering waters. These range from small angling boats to large commercial ferries.
By providing relevant, robust and up-to-date information to other charities and organisations working for the sustainable future of our oceans, MARINElife performs a vital ocean conservation role.
MARINElife is always looking for support. You can learn how to become a Citizen Scientist for marine conservation projects. You can even become a MARINElife volunteer ship-based surveyor in your spare time. Alternatively, you can donate to help support its activities.
The Sea Life Trust
The Sea Life Trust is a Poole-based charity that works throughout the world to protect the world’s oceans and the amazing marine life that lives within them.
It works across the world to support practical local projects to protect marine wildlife and their habitats. Alongside this work, it carries out conservation campaigns to effect long-lasting change on a global scale.
The Trust owns and operates two marine wildlife sanctuaries. Opening in 2020, its Beluga Whale Sanctuary in Iceland was the world’s first sanctuary for beluga whales. And closer to home, its Cornish Seal Sanctuary has been rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured seal pups before releasing them back into the wild for over 60 years.
From making monthly donations, one-off donations, fundraising and more, there are many different ways to help support this charity.
The Reef-World Foundation
The Reef-World Foundation is a UK-based marine conservation charity that works internationally to support governments and communities to conserve coral reefs.
Reef-World Foundations’ main project is Green Fins. Green Fins focuses on the promotion of environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the diving industry, across the globe. Here it’s been working with the United Nations Environment Programme to help deliver this important education programme to help make diving more sustainable.
As a small international charity, it doesn’t have any options to volunteer. However, you can donate to help support Reef-World Foundations’ work.
Reef-World Foundation says your donation allows them to continue its hard work in engaging and working with local communities, governments and non-governmental organisations face-to-face. These vital meetings help to increase knowledge and capacity to help prevent damage to coral reefs.