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John H. Prescott (1935-1998)

John H. Prescott
Photo Credit: New England Aquarium

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John. H. Prescott was a conservationist, marine biologist, congressional advisor, teacher, explorer, world-renowned whale expert, and a pioneer whose achievements were known nationally and internationally. He began his career as a commercial tuna fisherman in California. Mr. Prescott was a biologist, curator, and General Manager at Marineland of the Pacific. At Marineland, Mr. Prescott and his colleague, Ken Norris, were the first to document echolocation by bottlenose dolphins.

From 1972-1994, Mr. Prescott was the Executive Director of the New England Aquarium in Boston, MA. He was the guiding force behind the transformation of the Aquarium from a Boston waterfront attraction to a world-class institution in education, research, and conservation. He oversaw the completion of the sea lion facility Discovery and the Animal Care Center. The New England Aquarium became the model for aquariums around the world and influenced the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to shift its focus from entertainment and attractions to conservation. Mr. Prescott also founded the Marine Animal Stranding Network at the New England Aquarium. The Aquarium became a center for marine animal rescue and rehabilitation and paved the way for the creation of many similar groups. In 1988, Mr. Prescott led the first successful rehabilitation and release of three pilot whales, which had stranded on Cape Cod, MA.

John H. Prescott was chairman of the Marine Mammal Commission’s Scientific Advisory Group and headed the National Humpback Whale Recovery Team. He served for five years as a member of the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission and was on the NOAA Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee from 1988 to 1993. In 1997, Mr. Prescott was awarded the Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence by the AZA for his contributions to husbandry, zoological display, research, conservation, and public education.