Community Involvement and Partnerships
Each and every day we are reminded of the important role local communities and our partners play in the sanctuary system's success. Throughout the National Marine Sanctuary Program, the efforts of aquaria, local businesses, university researchers, government agencies, boaters, citizen activists, educators, volunteers and countless others make our national marine sanctuaries a jewel in the crown of conservation, education, science and management.
Volunteering and partnership are two words that describe how the program achieves just about every accomplishment in this report. Unfortunately, space is limited here so we are not able to list most who have assisted us in our endeavors. Thank you to all who have helped us in 2005. Below are several examples how citizens and our partners help us in our day-to-day activities.
Volunteers Lead The Way In Ocean Stewardship
Volunteerism shows it's warm face in many ways. All across the nation people give of themselves so a hungry child can eat, homes are built for low-income people and so that the homeless are served food in shelters. For many, that sense of giving something back to the community or environment also extends into the national marine sanctuaries where volunteers help sanctuary staff nationwide carry out their work.
In the Florida Keys, volunteer divers played a key role in the newly launched Bleach Watch, an innovative effort to provide early warning and quick response to mass coral bleaching. Partnering with Mote Marine Laboratory, sanctuary staff integrated scientific and public input, while the divers contributed to the effort by gauging reef susceptibility to bleaching. These volunteer divers are trained to monitor bleaching events and compiled a database available online.
For the fourth year in a row, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary's Annual Celebration attracted the largest single-day fish count in the nation. One hundred scuba divers submitted 137 fish identification forms to the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. The divers spotted some 44 different species at dive sites around Cape Ann, an area just north of the sanctuary.
Three Sanctuary Advisory Councils Established
Establishing advisory councils is another way the sanctuary program reaches into the community to broaden its active constituent base. A sanctuary advisory council is a community-based advisory body consisting of representatives from various conservation, fishing and tourism organizations, local businesses, government agencies, scientists, educators and the public-at-large. Council members provide advice to the sanctuary manager on a sanctuary's science, education, management or other activities that are important to the site and local communities. This year saw the formation of three new councils at Fagatele Bay, Flower Garden Banks and the Monitor sanctuaries. Now, all 14 sites in the sanctuary system have an established advisory council. These nearly 400 sanctuary ambassadors will ensure all sites have community input into the operation of their local sanctuary.
Fishermen Provide Expert Knowledge On Sanctuary Issues
Community involvement however, doesn't begin and end with volunteer efforts. Sanctuary-wide, partnerships with numerous constituent groups and organizations are key to the survival of each and every sanctuary. From the United States Navy to tiny Alpena, Mich., we see many examples of how partners help manage sanctuary resources.
The fishing community is an important constituent group for the sanctuary program. They spend a lot of time at sea and are an excellent source of first-hand knowledge of the marine environment. Sanctuary staff are working closely with fishermen at several sites to support science needs and education programs. These efforts range from working with regional fishery management councils to implementing ecosystem-based management measures to education programs that bring the exciting lives and history of commercial and recreational fishermen into local communities and the classroom.
For example, staff with our sanctuaries in California are working with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to prohibit the harvesting of krill, which is an important food source for many marine mammals and seabirds, as well as fish caught by commercial and recreational fishermen. Staff are also working with the fishery council to prohibit fishing in waters below 3,000 feet over Davidson Seamount, an area being considered for inclusion in the Monterey Bay sanctuary. In addition, sanctuary staff are coordinating with the State of California in their development of marine protected areas within state waters. Our site in Monterey Bay also supports fishermen to travel to local schools to educate students in the role fishing plays in Monterey Bay's cultural history.
Sanctuary Foundation Key Partner In Increasing Public Awareness
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is the non-profit partner that helps to connect the public and decision-makers to the importance of sanctuaries through its marine conservation education, conservation, legislative, public awareness and outreach initiatives. The foundation also leverages private contributions for the National Marine Sanctuary Program. A signature event of the foundation is the annual Capitol Hill Oceans Week, which is held in Washington, D.C. each June. The symposium brings together various ocean constituents to inform our nation’s leaders about significant ocean and coastal issues. The foundation also supported major public education events as part of the anniversary celebrations at Channel Islands, Thunder Bay, Monitor and Florida Keys sanctuaries. To learn about the foundation’s work and how you can help, please visit: http://nmsfocean.org.