Welcoming New and Returning Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council Appointees

By Rachel Plunkett

January 2021

Congratulations to the eight newly appointed members and three reappointed members of the Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council! The council is an opportunity for us to engage with and empower businesses in the protection and management of marine resources. Specifically, the council brings together experts on key sectors, projects, or issues to provide advice and recommendations to the director related to the management and conservation of sanctuary resources. Their first meeting will take place on January 14, 2021.

To join the Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council meeting, which takes place on January 14, 2021 from 12 - 3 p.m. EST., please register in advance for the GoToWebinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Businesses located in and near sanctuary communities play important roles in the protection of marine resources by promoting sustainable use and responsible recreation and tourism, and helping to raise public awareness about research and conservation efforts. Without those businesses, travelers would have nowhere to stay or eat when visiting the sanctuary, no guided tours on the water to learn about local wildlife, and no way of renting boats, paddleboards, or snorkeling equipment to get out on (or in) the water and explore. Likewise, healthy marine protected areas are good for business – people travel from all over the world to visit national marine sanctuaries and enjoy activities such as whale watching and fishing – and the money they spend while visiting trickles throughout the local economy.

Two people smiling in kayaks
Kayaking is a very popular activity in many of America’s national marine sanctuaries, including Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Tracy Hajduk/NOAA

According to NOAA’s most recent economic data, marine-based recreation and sustainable tourism employ nearly 2.4 million people, and contribute about $143 billion to the annual U.S. gross domestic product, more dollars than other marine industries. Across the sanctuary system, about $8 billion annually is generated in local coastal and ocean-dependent economies from diverse activities like commercial fishing, research, and tourism/recreation activities.

“From restaurants and hotels, to aquariums and nature centers, to dive operators and fishing guides, national marine sanctuaries support thousands of jobs in the recreation and tourism economy,” said John Armor, director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “The expertise and diverse perspectives of the business advisory council will be essential as we continue to work to improve visitor experiences, enhance our public-private partnerships, and generate interest in marine conservation and sustainable use.”

The expertise that the members of the council bring to the table will help us promote responsible recreation and tourism in America’s most treasured underwater places. The eight new voting members of the council will join three re-appointed members, who represent a wide variety of ocean and coastal interests. Each council member will serve a two or three-year term, and may be reappointed for up to three consecutive terms at the discretion of the director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The council does not have a role in providing advice on regulatory or administrative matters.

Expanding Inclusive Access

Visitors enjoy spotting whales on a whale watching trip in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Hispanic Access Foundation

We believe that water is a thread that connects us all, and your national marine sanctuaries are places for everyone to get outside and enjoy together. One goal we hope to achieve with the guidance and support of the new advisory council is the ability to reach more diverse audiences across America. Specifically, we hope to inspire more Black and Latino outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage of the beauty and adventure that awaits above and below the waters of America’s underwater parks. Taishya Adams, policy director for Outdoor Afro, and Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation each bring their own respective knowledge and expertise regarding expanding access, representation, and participation in outdoor spaces.

“The connections Latinos have to the ocean and coast are strong, historical, and intimate,” said Arce. “From indigenous settlement to the present day, the ocean has given and taken away, alternately providing food and flood, salary, and storm. Our marine sanctuaries are vulnerable to nature and vulnerable to the man-made issues carried in its currents and waves. To ensure inclusive access and increased stewardship, Hispanic Access Foundation is pleased to serve as a member of NOAA’s Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council. Together, with our partners, we share the vision of a thriving sanctuary system that protects our nation’s underwater treasures and inspires momentum for a healthy ocean.”

Natural and Cultural Resource Management

For hundreds of years the Chumash traveled California’s Santa Barbara Channel in plank canoes, called “tomols,” to trade with the mainland community. Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

National marine sanctuaries are part of tribal cultural land and waterscapes – places with past and/or present significance to the cultural beliefs, customs, and practices of indigenous people. Our Maritime Heritage Program is not only involved in the protection of the submerged remains of the past (e.g., cultural, historical, and archaeological resources), but also in increasing appreciation of the many different types of human connections to the sea. Sherry Rupert, CEO of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association will serve a three-year term on the Natural and Cultural Resource Management Seat of the council. Rupert works to elevate native voices and is an advocate for increasing travel and tourism opportunities as an economic driver in tribal nations. “I’m thrilled to be a member of this esteemed panel,” said Rupert. “So many of our nation’s coastal regions and marine parks have deep ties to Native American culture and heritage, and I look forward to working with NOAA to help elevate the voices of the native peoples connected to those coastal regions.”

Encouraging Responsible Tourism and Recreation

Blue Star operators serve as ambassadors for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to promote responsible and sustainable recreational fishing and diving opportunities. Photo: NOAA

As we kick off 2021, we face some unique challenges following an unprecedented year in travel and tourism. We aim to work with the Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council to further our efforts in promoting sustainable and responsible recreation within sanctuaries. Our office balances the protection of marine ecosystems and maritime history with allowing enjoyment and responsible resource use within sanctuaries. The majority of waters within our nation’s marine sanctuaries are open for sustainable recreation, including surfing, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, fishing, tidepooling, and visiting educational centers. We want people to come and responsibly visit these incredible places – America’s underwater parks – and we look forward to having the guidance of some well-known leaders in outdoor recreation and tourism to help us spread that message.

Surfer dropping in on a wave
Every winter Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary turns into a surfer’s paradise. This surfer caught a gnarly wave at the world renowned surf break called Pipeline. Photo: Walker Langley

Your national marine sanctuaries contribute to the “blue economy,” and many industries have begun to see the value in marine conservation as it relates to both profit and customer satisfaction. Hotels, tour boat operators, restaurants, and other businesses located in travel hotspots benefit when the coral reefs and kelp forests are healthy, fish are abundant, and the water is clean and clear. After all, these are the attributes that attract tourists in the first place!

“A healthy ocean is vital for the wellbeing of people because it’s a key factor in areas like climate action, food security, livelihoods, biodiversity, recreation, and tourism,” said Marie Fukudome, director of environmental affairs at Hyatt Corporation. "By participating in the council, we hope to contribute to collaborative action as well as apply key learnings and best practices to Hyatt’s ongoing initiatives in this area."

Continuing Conservation

The green sea turtle is an endangered species found in several of your national marine sanctuaries that benefits from the continued protection of ocean habitats as well as conservation efforts such as marine debris cleanups. Photo: Olivia Williamson, 2019 “Get Into Your Sanctuary” photo contest winner

Each national marine sanctuary has unique ecosystems, resources, and human uses, each of which are managed on a site level, but are part of a broader system. Many species protected under U.S. law and international treaties can be found throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System, but also move freely throughout the ocean. We work with other U.S. government agencies and international partners to align place-based and species-based conservation efforts within U.S. waters and beyond. We want to broaden our reach and get more people involved with conservation efforts. To be successful, we must look at things through the eyes of our customers – the people we wish to engage – and find the messages and opportunities that appeal to them. This is something that successful businesses have mastered. Advisory council members will play an important role in providing guidance on strategic business partnerships and opportunities for community involvement in conservation projects ranging from local to international in scope.

A person and a toddler hold a fish up together
Recreational fishing is enjoyed throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System, with opportunities for shore-based and offshore fishing, flats fishing, bottom fishing, trolling, fly fishing, and so much more. Photo: provided by C. Lo

The fishing community recognizes that conservation is necessary in order to maintain healthy fish stocks for future generations. Martin Peters, division manager of government relations for Yamaha’s U.S. Marine Business Unit, will play a key role in helping us continue to strengthen relationships with the recreational and commercial fishing communities. Peters is also a member of the Government Relations Committee of the American Sportfishing Association®, and in 2019 was recognized for his “outstanding contributions to fisheries conservation and recreational fishing and boating.” Dave Bulthuis, president of Pure Fishing, will join Peters on the Recreational and Commercial Fishing seat. Bulthuis is an advocate for conservation and also believes that “increasing access to great boating and fishing for all Americans is a critical component to growing participation and offering exciting and memorable outdoor experiences.”

We are excited to begin a new year with the first Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council meeting on January 14, and look forward to working with members of the council to accomplish our goals for 2021 and beyond.

Rachel Plunkett is the writer/editor for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Business Advisory Council

Newly Appointed Members

  • Taldi Harrison, government and community affairs manager, REI
  • Jessica (Wahl) Turner, executive director, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable
  • Marie Fukudome, senior manager, environmental affairs, Hyatt Hotels
  • Joost Ouendag, vice president of product marketing, Viking River Cruises
  • Taishya ​Adams​​, policy director, Outdoor Afro
  • Maite Arce, president and CEO, Hispanic Access Foundation
  • Dave Bulthuis, president, Pure Fishing
  • Sherry L. Rupert, CEO, American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA)

Re-appointed Members

  • Greg Jacoski, executive director, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation
  • Elissa Foster, senior manager of product responsibility, Patagonia, Inc.
  • Martin Peters, division manager of government relations, Yamaha Marine Business Unit