Ocean Wise Conservation Association

P.O. Box 3232
Vancouver, BC V6B 3X8
President & CEO: Lasse Gustavsson
Board Chair: Christian Baxter

Charitable Reg. #:11928 2119 RR0001


Ci's Star Rating is calculated based on the following independent metrics:

[Charity Rating: 2/5]


Audited financial statements available only through official request for information from Charities Directorate.



Grade based on the charity's public reporting of the work it does and the results it achieves.



The demonstrated impact per dollar Ci calculates from available program information.


Charity's cash and investments (funding reserves) relative to how much it spends on programs in most recent year.



For a dollar donated, after overhead costs of fundraising and admin/management (excluding surplus) 74 cents are available for programs.

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About Ocean Wise Conservation Association:

Founded in 1951, Ocean Wise Conservation Association (Ocean Wise) is an environmental charity that aims to protect and restore the world’s oceans. Ocean Wise focuses on three main threats to oceans: overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Based in Vancouver, it operates the Vancouver Aquarium to help protect thousands of marine animals and aquatic species. Ocean Wise also runs public awareness, research, and conservation projects to inspire Canadians to take action for ocean health.

In 2019, Ocean Wise grouped its programs into four main areas: Aquariums, Education, Research, and Citizen Action and Field Projects. It spent 65% of program costs on aquarium operations and 35% on all other programs, for which it does not provide a breakdown.

Until April 2021, Ocean Wise operated the Vancouver Aquarium, which provides a home for more than 70,000 marine animals. Ocean Wise has since entered into an agreement to sell the aquarium and will no longer operate it. The Vancouver Aquarium will continue to support and host Ocean Wise’s research work. Since opening in 1956, the Vancouver Aquarium has hosted more than 40 million people. In 2019, Ocean Wise Conservation Association provided free admission for 1,700 children and hosted a total of 1 million visitors at the aquarium. 

Ocean Wise also funds Education and Research programs to engage Canadians and protect the world’s oceans. In 2019, it reached 569,891 people through school programs, field trips, and educational conferences. During the year, Ocean Wise launched its new Octobus program, which provides free transportation for schools to visit the Vancouver Aquarium. In 2019, Octobus helped more than 4,000 students visit the aquarium. Ocean Wise also funds more than 40 researchers to conduct studies of at-risk species, plastic pollution, and Arctic conservation. As part of a five-year study to analyze killer whale health, Ocean Wise researcher Dr. Lance Barnett-Lennard used drones to take images of 100 orcas in 2019.

Ocean Wise’s Citizen Action and Field Projects include a wide range of conservation initiatives run in partnership with local groups. These include the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, Ocean Wise Seafood, and the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Ocean Wise’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is a hospital and care facility for sick, injured, or orphaned marine mammals. In 2019, it helped to rescue 104 animals, including three sea lions trapped in plastic pollution. Ocean Wise Seafood is a sustainable seafood program that aims to tackle the problem of overfishing. The charity reports that more than 3,000 stores across Canada now sell Ocean Wise-approved seafood.

Recent News: In April 2021, Ocean Wise Conservation Association transferred ownership of the Vancouver Aquarium to Herschend Enterprises, a private theme park company based in Georgia, USA. The charity determined that due to the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic, it was unable to continue operating the aquarium moving forward. Ocean Wise states that it will continue to fund education, research, and conservation work, and will receive an annual donation of 1% of aquarium profits from Herschend Enterprises.

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Results and Impact

Ocean Wise has not yet posted its 2020 annual report at the time of this update. These results refer to 2019.

Through its annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Ocean Wise encourages Canadians to lead local cleanup efforts along shorelines and beaches. In 2019, the charity reports that it helped to remove 163,505 kg of litter from 3,937 km of Canadian shorelines, lakes, and rivers.

While Ci highlights these key results, they may not be a complete representation of Ocean Wise Conservation Association’s results and impact. This charity is not yet rated on impact (n/r).

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In F2020, Ocean Wise announced that it would discontinue its aquarium operations and dispose of all related assets moving forward due to the covid-19 pandemic. The charity’s F2020 financial statements exclude revenues and expenses related to the aquarium from its income statement, reporting them instead in its financial notes. Ci has reported aquarium revenues and expenses for all three years. However, since Ocean Wise’s financials no longer report administrative and fundraising costs allocated to aquarium operations, overhead costs are likely understated for F2020.

Ocean Wise Conservation Association received $11.5m in donations in F2020. It also received $12.9m in government funding (35% of revenues) and $14.7m in aquarium admission fees and retail sales (40% of revenues). Administrative costs are 12% of revenues (less investment income) and fundraising costs are 14% of donations. This results in total overhead spending of 26%. For every dollar donated to the charity, 74 cents go to the cause. This is within Ci’s reasonable range for overhead spending. Ocean Wise was previously outside of this reasonable range. However, its reported fundraising costs fell by 66% in F2020, lowering its fundraising ratio.

Ocean Wise has $16.0m in net funding reserves. The charity can cover 54% or just over six months of annual program costs with its existing reserves.

Charity Intelligence has sent this update to Ocean Wise Conservation Association for review. Changes and edits may be forthcoming.

Updated on June 28, 2021 by Eric Zhao.

Financial Review

Financial Ratios

Fiscal year ending December
Administrative costs as % of revenues 12.2%16.1%16.0%
Fundraising costs as % of donations 13.9%41.2%57.2%
Total overhead spending 26.1%57.3%73.1%
Program cost coverage (%) 53.5%64.8%47.9%

Summary Financial Statements

All figures in $000s
Donations 11,48111,3987,962
Government funding 12,87100
Fees for service 14,68421,69221,798
Business activities (net) 03,3343,731
Investment income (2,586)5,2784,757
Other income 949091
Total revenues 36,54441,79238,339
Program costs 29,96124,53722,087
Administrative costs 4,7735,8795,360
Fundraising costs 1,5954,6964,551
Other costs 164267288
Total spending 36,49335,37932,286
Cash flow from operations 516,4136,053
Capital spending 1,3441,5402,966
Funding reserves 16,03115,89610,582

Note: In F2020, Ocean Wise changed the presentation of its income statement to exclude aquarium operations. To report on a cash basis, Ci has included aquarium revenues and expenses for all three years. Ci classified aquarium revenues, mostly comprised of admission and membership fees, as fees for service. This affected revenues by $26.5m in F2020. Ci removed donations and government funding of $11.8m included in fees for service to report them as donations. Ci then removed government funding of $12.9m included in donations to report it as government funding. Ci removed grants from Ocean Wise Conservation Foundation from donations and reported them as other income. Ci included changes in carrying value of investments in investment income, affecting revenues by ($3.4m) in F2020. Ci classified aquarium expenses, mostly comprised of facility operations and animal care, as program costs. This affected expenses by $24.7m in F2020. Ci removed amortization expenses of $3.1m included in aquarium expenses. Ci reported interest expenses in other costs rather than aquarium and administrative expenses. Aquarium revenues may include some retail sales, while aquarium expenses may include some retail, administrative, and fundraising costs in F2020. However, Ocean Wise’s F2020 financial statements do not provide enough information to separate these amounts from general aquarium operations. In F2019 and F2018, Ci reported retail sales net of expenses in business activities. This affected revenues and expenses by ($8.4m) in F2019 and ($7.5m) in F2018.

Salary Information

Full-time staff: 261

Avg. compensation: $62,603

Top 10 staff salary range:

$350k +
$300k - $350k
$250k - $300k
$200k - $250k
$160k - $200k
$120k - $160k
$80k - $120k
$40k - $80k
< $40k

Information from most recent CRA Charities Directorate filings for F2019

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Comments & Contact

Comments added by the Charity:

No comments have been added by the charity.

Charity Contact

Website: www.ocean.org
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tel: 604-659-3780


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Charitable Registration Number: 80340 7956 RR0001