The National Marine Aquarium (NMA), in Plymouth, Britain’s Ocean City, is an essential element in the delivery of our habitat restoration and behaviour change programmes.

At the Ocean Conservation Trust we, are all about people. The animals who call our aquarium home are used to enthuse and engage millions of people with the Ocean, promoting an emotional connection.  

In the 2017 Framework Institute Report into the gaps in the public’s understandings of the Ocean and Marine Conservation in the United Kingdom, there were many different models devised to best communicate the plights facing our Ocean. One of the recommended and most successful ‘models’ to communicate about the Ocean with the public was “The Aquarium Model”.

“The Aquarium model is productive in drawing people’s attention to the life that exists below the surface. When this model is active in people’s thinking, it brings their attention to the depth and volume of the ocean as a body of water. In the process, it makes them more receptive to communications about the negative implications of changes in ocean temperature and chemistry for animal life, and to thinking about the connections between the range of species that inhabit the ocean.

To cue this model, what happens within the ocean should be emphasised when the goal is to focus people’s attention on marine ecosystems. Visual aids that bring attention to the three dimensionality of the ocean are also likely to cue this model productively.”

2017’s Framework Institute Report

Through rigorous evaluation, we have ensured that not only do our visitors enjoy a fun family day out at our Aquarium, but also take away important Ocean conservation messages and a greater understanding of their connection with the Ocean, and its connection to them. 


  • We participate in over 8 different breeding programmes across Europe, ensuring the future of a range of endangered Ocean animals.
  • We are currently working with:
    • Ocellated eagle ray (Aetobatus ocellatus)
    • Cownose rays (Rhinoptera sp.)
    • Bluespot ribbontail rays (Taeniura lymma)
    • Sandtiger shark (Carcharias Taurus)
    • Undulate skate (Raja undulata)
    • Zebra shark 
  • Research into the colonisation of artificial reefs through the Scylla Project right on our doorstep in Plymouth Sound
  • Provided scientific evidence of the restorative properties of aquaria for mental health and the use of aquaria as learning spaces for children, through ground breaking research carried out using our exhibits
  • Restore ocean habitats, with a focus on local seagrass and Costa Rican corals in our in house Coral Research Station 
  • Conduct studies on animal behaviour and target training for animal welfare. The NMA is an industry leader in this field of research in fish, sharks, rays and invertebrates.
  • Work with the University of Plymouth Psychology department on aquarium enrichment techniques for aquatic species.
  • Support a wide variety of student projects from the University of Plymouth, Exeter University and Bath University.
  • In 2020 we will support a new PhD in Ocean Literacy for primary school children

Visitor Engagement

• We deliver an unrivalled experience across UK aquaria due to the scale of our exhibits and our Hosted experience 

• We welcome almost 300,000 visitors through our doors annually, connecting them with the Ocean in impactful ways that inspire long-term pro-Ocean behaviour. 

Ocean Education

  • Heavily subsidise all school visits to ensure we can educate as many children as possible. 
  • Teach 30,000 children a year about the Ocean and develop links with the Ocean, national curricula and other statutory bodies
  • Support a work experience programme for local school aged children, helping them with future career choices in Plymouth
  • Deliver STEMfest, our flagship annual celebration, allowing children from across the southwest to connect with Ocean STEM careers

Being part of the community

• Help young people feel connected to the Ocean and empowered to help protect it via our club for teenagers

• Work with young families with toddlers to deliver an affordable toddler group-learning experience every week

• Work with the fishing community of Plymouth to promote sustainable fishing and buying local seafood

• Provide subsidised and specially adapted sessions for local people who have special needs

• Deliver a national first VR Programme in local care homes and hospitals – bringing the relaxing Ocean to residents in the comfort of familiar surroundings.

• Support a Walking for Health Community Group, helping people to walk alongside the Ocean and feel the mental and physical health benefits this brings