Unsung Heroes Of The Ocean: Charlotte Vick – Mission Blue

Source: The TerraMar Project

· Published · Updated

The importance of our world’s oceans and the threats they face has been gaining traction in mainstream media.

From bans on plastic around the world to changes in the way we manage and protect our ocean resources, actions are being taken to save the oceans at a scale never before seen.

But who’s behind this massive movement?

Many of us are familiar with the big-name ocean champions bringing attention to issues like climate change, overfishing, and pollution in our oceans. For example, Sylvia Earle, James Cameron, Adrian Grenier, and The Cousteau’s.

But what about the unsung heroes of the ocean?

Meet Charlotte Vick From Mission Blue

Unsung Heroes

“When you get a call from Charlotte – you answer it! She is a dynamo with vision and energy and a delight to be around! I can’t think of another person that could bring the ocean community together in Texas other than Charlotte.” – Vicki Nichols Goldstein, Founder & Executive Director of Inland Ocean Coalition

Mission Blue is an organization with a goal to ignite global support for a network of marine protected areas, called ‘Hope Spots’. By identifying these areas of hope for our world’s oceans, the world can then mobilize and act to protect these areas and preserve the integrity of our oceans.

Their work, founded and championed by Dr. Sylvia Earle has gained a huge following around the ocean community.

Dr. Sylvia Earle often notes:  “There’s still time, but not a lot, to turn things around.”

But as they say, it takes team-work to make the dream work, and Mission Blue’s team is without a doubt one of the most dedicated in the world.

Enter Charlotte Vick, Mission Blue’s Director of Engagement:

A Career Dedicated To The Sea

“32 years Ocean Science observations, 18 years passive Ocean conservationist 100s of ocean connections made, the last decade working with Charlotte at Mission Blue events never have I met anyone who can so quickly and so professionally put 10 total strangers together, pairing them up to work on multiple projects because she had the vision and insights about their diverse skills and how their collaboration will benefit both parties.  

She always gives a nice history about both strangers before she is off putting two more together.  Charlotte is the guru ocean person and at the absolute top of my list as the networking catalyst for all things SDG14 and SDG17.”

George Cummings, Mission Blue

Charlotte’s professional life was transformed by working in Washington, D.C. during the Ford Administration with US territories – all of which were islands. There she began a 40-year interest in the UN Convention on Law of the Sea that led to a long string of projects relating to the economic, social, legal, oceanographic and technological aspect of oceans and islands. 

She worked in many locations in the Pacific region and other regions and continues to be interested in issues of effective management, oceanographic exploration, mapping and research. She believes emerging technologies and approaches needed in the 21st Century coupled with dispelling ignorance can reverse the tide for our oceans. 

Joining Dr. Sylvia Earle and others in 2008, she seeks to facilitate, collaborate, support and fund ocean exploration, education, mapping, policy advocacy and whatever moves positive action on ocean health, restoration and policy. She has worked with Dr. Earle in many capacities and is currently the Mission Blue Director of Engagement working with staff, partners and her personal network of friends to protect and restore the “Blue.” 

Photo: Charlotte sharing a message about our Blue Planet and why we need to work together to protect it.

A Short Story

“As a millenial, I grew up idolizing Sylvia Earle. Her inspiration led me towards a career path to save the ocean. I have to admit, when Earth Law Center became a Mission Blue partner, I was secretly praying that this would lead to meeting her deepness. Little did I know that I would meet another inspiration that I couldn’t see coming.

I had the honor of sitting down and talking with Charlotte for an extended period of time at IMPAC4 in Chile last year. And it was here that I learned what a force she is. Many who know of Charlotte, know of her extensive knowledge and experience. But the world should know of her tireless passion.

After President Trump was elected she spoke at an event in Florida, and afterwards received multiple death threats and had her car tires slashed. She told me she has had a great life and her children are happy and grown. And that if something happens to her because of the work she is doing, that is okay. “I want to devote my life to this” she said. In that moment I knew she was truly special.

I have since had the great honor to room with Charlotte at other events, hear more stories of her life, gain knowledge from her deep reserves and gain advice and suggestions on strategies and projects. As a young professional, that strives to have half the impact she has, I could not thank Charlotte enough for taking me under her wing, for believing in me and my work, giving me my first opportunity to speak on a panel, introducing me to the hundreds of people that I have absolutely no idea how she remembers all their names, and being the role model today’s society needs.”

– Michelle Bender, Earth Law

unsung heroes

Photo: Michelle Bender, Earth Law Center

Hometown Perspective

Charlotte’s fascination with sea life began when she was in elementary school in her native Texas. She loved to bike to the end of her street and  explore a quarry site near her home to collect “sea shells.”  These giant chalky white versions of ancient ocean ancestors were fossils preserved in caliche, a hard form of limestone.  Early in her professional career, the opportunity for a truly immersive dive into the ocean world began when she landed a position in Washington DC working for the US government with the island US territories.  There she realized that doing her job well meant starting on a self-directed, life-long course in the ocean, islands and the atmosphere. 

Over the next few decades, she left the mainland US to work in many locations in the Pacific Basin immersed in ocean science, ecology, economic development and trade. She has served on a long list of boards and advised a number of  businesses and community organizations everywhere she lived.  Professional assignments led her into coastal zone management, industry/government negotiations, grant writing, cartography, tourism, oceanography, fisheries economics and  emerging technology.  During the last decade, she has concentrated on working at the nexus of ocean exploration, mapping, conservation science, policy, and governance with the Sylvia Earle Alliance and hundreds of global partners.  Her interest today is focused on preparing future generations to live and work adaptively and resiliently within the natural world.”

– Melody Brenna, Reef Life Foundation

Stories From The Field

“I knew it was going to be ambitious to pull together a conference of this scale in such little time, but I decided to come for one reason: Charlotte asked me. She is the kind of person that can pull a rabbit out of the hat – but with so much charm and force of will that it seems like magic to the rest of us.”

– John Hocevar, Greenpeace

Have a story of your own about working with Charlotte? Send your thoughts to [email protected] to be shared with our global ocean community!


Special thanks to Melody Brenna and Reef Life Foundation for helping to put this together.