Photo by: Jordann Tomasek, Birch Aquarium

Birch Aquarium Receives Prestigious AZA Accreditation

Accreditation is the ‘gold standard’ for the zoological and aquarium profession.

La Jolla, CA (March 26, 2024) — The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has announced that Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego was once again granted accreditation by AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission. The announcement follows on the heels of Birch Aquarium receiving the Quarter Century Award for 25 years of continuous AZA accreditation last September.

“Congratulations to the staff at Birch Aquarium for achieving the world’s ‘gold standard’ for the zoological and aquarium profession,” said Dan Ashe, AZA’s president and chief executive officer. “AZA’s standards continually evolve to reflect best practices in animal care and wellbeing, veterinary care, conservation, scientific advancement, and safety and security, among other things. With this assurance, the public can trust that the animals at Birch Aquarium receive the highest level of care and wellbeing, and there is a deep commitment to their conservation in the wild.”

AZA accreditation includes a detailed application and a meticulous multiple day on-site inspection by an independent team of zoological professionals. The inspecting team analyzes all aspects of the facility’s operation, including animal welfare and wellbeing; veterinary care; staff training; safety for visitors, staff, and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; financial stability; risk management; governance; and guest services.

“I am so very proud of our entire Birch Aquarium team for being so prepared for the rigorous AZA Accreditation process,” said Executive Director Harry Helling. “The inspectors — noting areas of excellence around our animal conservation, education and sustainability initiatives — also recognized the level of commitment and professionalism of the Birch Aquarium team.”

Detailed reports from the inspection team and the facility alike are then thoroughly evaluated by the Commission. Finally, the Commission interviews top officials from the facility at a formal hearing, after which accreditation is fully granted, provisionally granted for one year, or denied.

A thorough review ensures that each facility has met and will continue to meet ever-rising standards. As a condition of association membership, AZA facilities must complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years. Of the 31 applications for accreditation reviewed by the Commission during AZA’s Mid-Year Meeting held in Memphis, Tenn., 28 were granted accreditation.

"Receiving AZA accreditation is crucial to animal care,” said Jennifer Nero Moffatt, Birch Aquarium’s Senior Director of Animal Care, Science and Conservation. “It guarantees that we adhere to strict criteria concerning animal welfare, conservation efforts, education, and guest satisfaction. This accreditation demonstrates our dedication to top-notch quality and reassures our community that we operate ethically, responsibly, and with utmost care for both our animals  and our guests"

There are 236 AZA-accredited institutions and 15 AZA-accredited related facility members throughout the U.S. and 12 other countries.


About AZA
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and 12 other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit

About Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps is the public exploration center for Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Birch Aquarium features the groundbreaking work of Scripps Oceanography and UC San Diego scientists as well as conservation breeding programs, and interactive exhibits. Birch Aquarium’s mission is to connect understanding to protecting our ocean planet, which the aquarium achieves through engaging hands-on learning opportunities for more than 500,000 guests and 40,000-plus pre-K-12 students each year. Visit for more information.