Pacific Marine Mammal Center CEO resigns after four years

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Pacific Marine Mammal Center CEO Peter Chang. File Photo

The chief executive officer of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center announced Monday he’s resigned after four years with the storied nonprofit that just celebrated 50 years of rescuing sick and injured seals and sea lions.

Peter Chang has manned the Laguna Beach organization’s helm during a pandemic that has shaken the nonprofit sector nationally as fundraising events were either canceled or shifted online. The Center was also forced to close its visitor yard amid a couple of surges of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Despite these challenges, Chang held the organization at budget in 2020 and increased revenues by more than 35% in 2021, Jeff Meberg, chairman of the PMMC board of directors, said in a press release Monday.

It’s been an honor and privilege to work with the PMMC’s team staff and volunteers, Chang said, adding they’ve collectively accomplished far more than he ever imagined.

“I feel really good about where the organization is right now. It makes it much easier to pursue the next chapter in my life knowing that PMMC is well-positioned to flourish in the coming years,” Chang said in a press release. “This has been an experience of a lifetime, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”

Chang’s last day with PMMC was March 18 but he continues to assist with the leadership transition. He is looking forward to figuring out his next career move and spending time with his family and their new puppy.

Among the PMMC’s recent accomplishments is the launch of a $7.5 million capital campaign, the largest fundraising effort in its history, to build an onsite water reclamation system, a state-of-the-art patient treatment center, three new animal rehabilitation pools, and expanding educational facilities.

The Center has raised about $6.1 million of that goal so far, according to a press release.

Residents and commuters may have noticed an array of staking poles directly south of the Laguna Canyon facility two weeks ago. These generally show the outline of the planned building.

“This project was talked about even before I joined the organization to see that go up makes it real,” Chang said in a phone interview. “We’ve got it through the hardest parts of the project. I would have loved to see the new facilities but playing that role and seeing it come to fruition was satisfying enough.”

The project is slated to go before the Design Review Board within the next couple of months, Chang said.

Meberg also touted expanding educational programs for children’s hospitals, including the Texas Children’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Levine Children’s Hospital in North Carolina;

Last year, PMMC staff also connected with more than 26,000 children and adult learners through science-based education programs, including interactive lectures live-streamed to classrooms.

The Marine Mammal Center also received national recognition for the Sea Lions for Service Members program, which provides military veterans living with post-traumatic stress with therapeutic experiences caring for marine mammals.

During the Southern California Oil Spill, PMMC also rapidly assembled rescue teams to rescue oiled marine mammals. Fortunately, far fewer pinnipeds and dolphins washed up on Orange County’s coastline than experts had feared after the spill.

“The Board of Directors and staff at PMMC extend our most sincere thanks to Peter for his tireless dedication to our mission and goal and wish him nothing but success in all of his future endeavors,” Meberg said in a press release.

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