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Bob Talbot: Redefining Ocean Conservation

Bob Talbot and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Renowned marine photographer and filmmaker Bob Talbot fell in love with the ocean at an early age. Snorkeling at 8 years old and a certified diver at 13, Talbot considered the water his own personal backyard. When he was given a camera at the age of 14, he and a friend bought a 16-foot inflatable boat and began photographing whatever they could off the coast of southern California.

It’s unbelievable what Talbot has done with a lens since then. His photographs of whales and dolphins have been reproduced into millions of lithographs distributed worldwide, and he’s used his filmmaking talent to draw attention to the beauty of the ocean and its inhabitants—and our responsibility to protect all of it. He’s created moving PSAs for organizations like Oceana, short films highlighting the need for marine sanctuaries like the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and has worked on several Cousteau Society productions.

And his activism extends beyond his camerawork. Talbot serves on boards for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Heal the Bay, and works with various environmental groups on marine conservation issues. As chairman of the board of trustees for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Talbot is helping to protect the very waters that inspired his career. Just offshore of California’s central coast—where he and his friend spent their adolescence photographing whales and dolphins—is Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the largest of 14 sites protected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Sanctuary System.

Spanning 276 miles (4,601 square nautical miles of ocean) and extending an average of 30 miles from shore, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is the largest of all the national marine sanctuaries—even bigger than Yellowstone National Park. It provides a home to 34 species of marine mammals, more than 180 species of seabirds and shorebirds, at least 525 species of fish and a plethora of invertebrates and algae. It also boasts the nation’s largest kelp forests and one of North America’s largest underwater canyons.

Marine sanctuaries such as this one are established to protect our aquatic resources, provide research and educate—and they’re critical to the health of our oceans. While about 12 percent of our planet’s land is protected in the form of national parks, world heritage sites and monuments, less than 3 percent of our ocean is protected in any way. Environmentalists like Talbot are advocating for the establishment of more of these “hope spots” in order to ensure a better future for our world.

Talbot recently spoke at the National Aquarium in April as part of our 2014 Marjorie Lynn Bank Lecture Series. Watch the full lecture to learn more about how he’s used the power of film to tell a story of change and recovery in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.


  1. National Aquarium, National Marine Sanctuaries
  2. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, General Information About the MBNMS
  3. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Your Sanctuary Television Program
  4. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Sanctuaries, About Your Sanctuaries
  5. National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, About Us
  6. Mission Blue, Hope Spots

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