Story of the Waitt Institute

  • 1993: Ted Waitt, philanthropist and co-founder of Gateway, Inc., founded the Waitt Foundation, focused on community building.
  • 1999: Waitt Foundation relocated its headquarters to San Diego, California.
  • 2006: The Foundation established the Waitt Institute for Discovery, a non-profit operating foundation. The Foundation and Institute began executing a past-present-future model, with the Institute funding science for historical discoveries and future innovations, and the Foundation funding current human needs.
  • Aha moment!: Waitt, after retiring from Gateway, began to spend time traveling the seas. Even in remote places he would see degraded reefs, depleted fisheries, and trash on the beaches. He realized this was a serious environmental problem, but also a solvable one. So, the Foundation expanded its philanthropy to include ocean conservation, starting with financing The End of the Line (a documentary about overfishing).
  • 2008: The Foundation conducted in-depth scoping of philanthropic opportunities in ocean conservation.
  • 2010: The vision of the Foundation became, and remains, “to restore our ocean to full productivity.” The Foundation became a Pew Global Ocean Legacy partner, formed a major scientific partnership with the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UC Santa Barbara, became a founding member of Oceans 5 funders collaborative, and made its first investment into sustainability of small-scale fisheries by funding the Small-Scale and Artisanal Fisheries Research Network (SAFRN) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The name of the Waitt Institute for Discovery became, simply, the Waitt Institute.
  • Also in 2010: Waitt and a delegation from National Geographic met with the Government of Bermuda, and the concept of a “Blue Halo,” a large, offshore marine reserve, was born. The Foundation helped identify the expertise of the Pew Environment Group to launch the Blue Halo project in Bermuda. In partnership with the Government of Bermuda and UCSB, the project was expanded to include zoning of the coastal waters.
  • Aha moment!: Pairing coastal zoning with large marine reserves struck Mr. Waitt as a practical approach to sustainable ocean use – worth pursuing on a broader scale.
  • 2012: Former SAFRN Co-chair Ayana Elizabeth Johnson joined the Foundation as Director of Science and Solutions. She led extensive scoping research to identify locations where the blue halo concept could be applied. After a meeting amongst Mr. Waitt, Dr. Johnson, and the Barbuda Council (island government), Blue Halo Barbuda was launched, and became the Foundation’s first in-house programmatic initiative, managed by Dr. Johnson.
  • 2013: It became clear that the “toolkit” developed for Barbuda (which includes scientific, policy, communications, legal, and enforcement support) could be adapted and applied in many locations. A new Waitt Institute was conceived, designed to support Blue Halo initiatives on many islands. The Institute’s vision became “empowering communities to restore their ocean,” and Dr. Johnson was appointed Executive Director.
  • Future: The Waitt Institute intends to partner with additional governments to support development and implementation of comprehensive, sustainable ocean policies. Combining the will of governments and communities with the toolkit of the Waitt Institute can lead to sustainable, profitable, and enjoyable use of ocean resources, for this and future generations.

Story of the Waitt Institute infographic


Story of WI - pg 2