7 Surprising Ways You Can Help Your National Marine Sanctuaries
By Bethany Rysak
- Speak German!
German students at Alpena Community College volunteered to translate historical artifacts from the 1966 shipwreck Nordmeer, helping add to our knowledge of the rich maritime history of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Danke schön!
- Paddle Around!
Every year, thousands of kayakers in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are greeted by friendly volunteer naturalists from the sanctuary’s Team OCEAN. These trained docents in official sanctuary kayaks share their knowledge with fellow paddlers, helping promote respectful wildlife viewing while making the visitors’ experience in the sanctuary more educational and enjoyable. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary also operates a Team OCEAN program, focusing on boaters around the sanctuary’s fragile coral reefs.
- Count Whales!
Some have called the Sanctuary Ocean Count at Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary one of the “best volunteer opportunities ever.” We aren’t going to disagree! Three times a year, volunteers bring their beach chairs and binoculars to the shores of Hawaii, Kauai and Oahu, to help the sanctuary keep an annual tally of endangered humpbacks — not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
- Eat Seafood!
Sanctuary volunteers participate in fun events like the Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival in Port Angeles, Wash. (home of the offices of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary), where they can enjoy the fruits of the sea while educating the public about impending threats to the ocean and how they can help protect it.
- Take a Break!
Spring break doesn’t have to mean lazing around or partying like crazy. More and more students are signing up for “alternative spring break” programs in our national marine sanctuaries, where they can give back to the community through activities like cleaning up marine debris, curating historical shipwreck artifacts, or helping out with a student underwater robot-building competition.
- Go Fishing!
Believe it or not, sometimes taking fish out of the ocean can make it a healthier place. At Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, volunteers have been helping round up invasive lionfish, which are voracious predators that can devastate reef fish populations. Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, which is also under threat from the invaders, offers lionfish workshops and is planning to hold a “Lionfish Invitational” fishing tournament in fall 2014.
- Get on your Phone!
You don’t have to be a marine biologist to help us learn more about marine life in the sanctuaries! Now, using a new iOS app called “Spotter Pro,” anyone can record sightings of whales and other marine mammals in our West Coast national marine sanctuaries. The app feeds into a database at WhaleAware.org, where scientists and ship operators can easily access and use the information to help protect these majestic creatures.