Pristine Seas

The Mission

Picture of Enric Sala diving with turtle
Photograph by Octavioa Aburto

Our Story

National Geographic and Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Enric Sala launched the Pristine Seas project in 2008 to identify, survey, protect, and restore the last truly wild places in the ocean. Through exploration, scientific research, economic and policy analysis, and outreach, we work to establish marine reserves where marine life can thrive—while ensuring that they will be effectively managed for years to come.

Partnering with heads of state, local governments and communities, NGOs, and business leaders is critical to our success. Learn more about how we work, meet our team, find answers to frequently asked questions, and get involved.

Pristine Seas is one of National Geographic’s key initiatives dedicated to environmental preservation. The National Geographic Society is the largest nonprofit supporter of the environment in the world.

The Problem

  • Marine Pollution

    Marine Pollution

    Pollutants are dumped into the ocean at an alarming rate every single day. Learn more about how trash and toxic chemicals threaten marine species and their habitats.

  • Overfishing


    Overfishing disrupts the balance of life in the ocean and has significant consequences for the millions of people worldwide that rely on fish as their primary source of protein.

  • Sea Temperature Rise

    Sea Temperature Rise

    Warmer oceans threaten coral reefs and fish stocks, with rising temperatures affecting some of the most fundamental links in the marine ecosystem and leading to higher sea levels.

  • Acidification


    As the ocean absorbs carbon emissions, it is experiencing a rapid drop in surface pH—a shift that is destabilizing marine environments and could have significant global consequences.

  • Invasive Species

    Invasive Species

    Aquatic invasive species are introduced to a location in a variety of ways and can be harmful to the balance of native marine ecosystems.

The Solution

  • Exploring Pristine Places

    Exploring Pristine Places

    Each Pristine Seas expedition brings us closer to understanding how the ocean appeared and functioned before extensive human impact.

  • Creating Reserves

    Creating Reserves

    Marine protected areas are critical to restoring the health of the ocean. Since 2009, Pristine Seas has helped secure 2.2 million square kilometers of ocean protection worldwide

  • Making Discoveries

    Making Discoveries

    Our cutting-edge research has revealed how intact marine ecosystems function and has even discovered species new to science.


  • Last Ice Gallery

    Last Ice Gallery

    Pristine Seas has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to document changes in sea ice—and the effect on the wildlife that depends on it—in the high Arctic.

  • Rapa Iti

    Rapa Iti

    French Polynesia’s southernmost islands have long been a respite for nature, but an expedition shows that the effects of fishing are reaching even these waters.

  • Seychelles


    Hawksbill turtles and inquisitive groupers trailed the Pristine Seas team through an Indian Ocean paradise in the Seychelles’ outer islands.

Order the Pristine Seas Book

The last of the pristine seas offer a fascinating glimpse into our past and an inspiring vision for the future. In Pristine Seas: Journeys to the Ocean’s Last Wild Places, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala takes readers on a dazzling journey to ten of these astounding locations, showing what we have to gain by protecting our seas.