The Ocean Institute is a 501c(3) organization committed to
expanding awareness and understanding of marine environments of
the guests who visit. Using labs, aquaria, off-shore experiences,
and artifacts, the Ocean Institute works to inspire actions of
learning, sustainability, and conservation. Our collections are
reflective of these ideas and support the educational
opportunities we provide for schools and the community.
We have great interest in acquiring items that will positively
promote our organization’s mission. If you have an item you would
like to donate, please read the conditions outlined below.
Understanding the policies, we have and the ones we must conform
to as a scientific educational facility, will help make the
donation process as smooth as possible.
Before Bringing your item in:
Tell us about it! Contact us with as accurate information as you
can about the item (photographs are appreciated). This helps us
correctly access its possible position within our collection and
whether the donation aligns with Ocean Institute’s mission.
Please do this before bringing your collection item
to the Ocean Institute. Addressing the items before
they come also helps to understand the significance of the
donation and gives the opportunity to provide accurate education
and/or history about the item.
We can’t accept everything
Please understand that the Ocean Institute can not accept
everything that is being proposed as a donation to us. Objects
that bring into question State or Federal regulations (explained
below), or do not align with the mission of Ocean Institute, are
more likely to be denied. The most likely situations where
donations will be accepted is if:
- It has a clear connection to the mission,
- It doesn’t duplicate artifacts we already own,
- It has proper documentation,
- It has feasible care requirements
Our collections are used for the education of the community and
school groups. We currently have 3 categories for collections:
Living Collections- Collections consisting of living animals
occupying our aquaria that are used for educational programs and
research. It is intended for the organisms here to be cared for
in alignment with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Exhibit Collections- This collection is used for exhibit displays
and educational programs. It is comprised of objects used in
research as well as those documenting the aspects of maritime
history, marine science, and terrestrial ecology. It is intended
that objects in this collection are preserved and maintained for
an elongated amount of time.
Teaching Collections- This collection consists of objects used in
educational programs, hands-on demonstrations, or as component
parts to repair or create facsimile artifacts. It is not intended
that items in this collection are preserved.
Conditions for Live and Exhibit Collections
Live animals, animal parts, or artifacts have stipulations when
it comes to accepting them as donations. The California
Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NMFS) have regulations that we, as a
scientific institution, must abide by. These conditions
correspond with the Marine Mammal Act of 1972, the Endangered
Species Act of 1973, protected state and federal lands and
coastal areas, and state protected species.
ANY bird parts, bones, feathers, or otherwise,
cannot be accepted at this time.
Bones, preserved parts, or parasites taken from any marine mammal
after the year 1972, or endangered species parts after 1973, must
Copies of permits or other documentation showing the material was
obtained legally by the donor.
Artifacts that were collected before the years 1972-73 must
submit a letter outlining how the artifact came into their
Acceptance of these types of artifacts depends entirely on the
legality of owning them, in accordance with CDFW and NOAA laws or
The localities of the collection of all said artifacts MUST be
We will take live animals regardless of endangered status.
However, this does not mean they will be able to stay within our
collection. If an animal has special status, protected status, is
endangered or threatened, the correct officials will be notified,
and their assessment will determine where the animal goes.
The Ocean Institute does have much of the proper permitting to
allow for most of these items. Donation items of this nature may
require extra documentation or the communication with state and
federal agencies. Please allow time for the assessment of
donations, apart from live animals.
Donations are Tax Deductible
As a non-profit institution, donations made to the Ocean
Institute may be claimed as tax deductions. In order to be
claimed, the object must be appraised for its value. In
accordance with the regulations issued by the Internal Revenue
Service (IRS), appraisal or estimates of an artifact’s value is
solely the responsibility of the donor and that benefiting
institutions cannot provide a fair market value. Therefore, the
Ocean Institute cannot provide appraisals or fair market
evaluations, either expressed or implied, to donors. We ask that
you consult your attorney, the IRS, or a licensed appraiser for
any questions or concerns addressing tax deductible donations.
Donation uses and display
All the donations Ocean Institute receives are important; whether
they are displayed or not. Items that are donated for exhibit
purposes are placed into a rotating collection. This means that
certain exhibits may change throughout the year, and our
displayed artifacts with them. We cannot guarantee that artifacts
will be displayed; display may affect the condition of some
artifacts, artifacts may be loaned to other institutions, or it
doesn’t match our collection at that time.
The Ocean Institute, because of the nature of our collections and
rotations, must accept gifts free of trust, obligation, or
conditions that need to be met. We ask that items being donated
are surrendered of ownership by the donor. If you would like to
receive back your donation at some point in time, please contact
the appropriate staff to discuss the loaning of an object.
We cannot accept unsolicited donations. Please do not mail, ship,
or drop off any items intended for donation without consulting an
appropriate staff member of the Ocean Institute. Information
detailing the origins and “story” behind item, to the best of the
donor’s ability, is required.
To inquire about or submit donations for review, please email the
Compliance Liaison at