Washington — As the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) celebrates 40 years of protecting ocean sanctuaries, the agency is highlighting the work of volunteers in helping conserve America's ocean and coastal treasures for future generations.
NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries announced June 15 that volunteers nationwide have donated more than 1 million hours of community service, from removing trash to counting whales and educating schoolchildren
“We are incredibly thankful for every single hour volunteers dedicate in our marine sanctuaries, and we appreciate the way they excite and engage the next generation of ocean stewards,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “We would not be able to accomplish many of the things we do without the selfless commitment of citizens in communities all across the country.”
The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages 14 marine protected areas spanning more than 388,000 square kilometers of ocean and Great Lakes waters from the Hawaiian Islands to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the sanctuary system. Since the mid-1990s, sanctuary volunteers have provided more than $15 million of in-kind support, according to a national value of volunteer time, NOAA said.
Examples of volunteer opportunities include annual events such as Ocean Count at Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, where more than 1,000 volunteers monitor humpback whales from the shores of Oahu and Kauai during whale season. In Southern California, the Channel Islands Naturalist Corps volunteer program teaches the public about the sanctuary’s important ecosystem at community events, whale watching tours and free lectures. Channel Islands Naturalist Corps was named the 2011 Take Pride in America Outstanding Federal Volunteer Program.
On the other side of the country, volunteers of Team OCEAN in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary patrol sanctuary waters to provide boaters with valuable navigational information and report illegal activity to sanctuary law enforcement officers. Volunteers also represent their communities through participation in sanctuary advisory councils, which provide advice to NOAA on the management and activities at each of the 14 sites.
“One million hours is a monumental achievement, but we encourage more people to get involved and help ensure marine sanctuaries remain America’s underwater treasures for generations to come,” said Tracy Hadjuk, NOAA national volunteer coordinator for sanctuaries.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage U.S. coastal and marine resources.