There’s definitely a role for divers in establishing and maintaining National Marine Sanctuaries in US territorial waters.
From proposing an area for designation as a National Marine Sanctuary to sitting on one’s local sanctuary advisory council, there are plenty of things divers can do to ensure marine sanctuaries are kept at the forefront of environmental protection, according to National Marine Sanctuary Foundation writer Rachel Plunkett.
While the foundation itself didn’t have a booth at this year’s DEMA Show in Orlando, Florida, “some individuals from the sanctuary system, we’ve just decided to come rogue on our own,” Plunkett said with a smile.
For Plunkett, who started with the foundation as a writer and editor during the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first chance she’s had to meet some of the people who help spread the word about the sanctuaries.
“Divers are sometimes a really good positive voice,” she said. “Divers tend to be supportive of maritime heritage.”
One area for divers to focus on is some of the new regions that have been either officially designated as future marine sanctuaries or proposed to become sanctuaries, according to Plunkett:
“The public can nominate places to become sanctuaries. This is a priority of the Biden administration at the moment because they have passed the America the Beautiful initiative, so they’re looking for places to protect.”
Once a sanctuary is in place, a lot of their advisory councils have seats for divers, she said, giving “somebody who is the voice of the diving community” the chance to bring important topics to the council, which informs the superintendent.
The foundation is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the National Marine Sanctuary system, with a lot of associated activities, according to Plunkett.
Additionally, the next generation will have a big say on how current and future marine sanctuaries are run.
Plunkett said she recently met with a bunch of youth across the US, including states like Texas, Maryland, Ohio and California “and I just kind of asked them, ‘What do you want to see? What is it that you want out of National Marine Sanctuaries? What’s your vision for the future of the ocean?”
While meeting with those young people was in one sense “symbolic . . . obviously they’re not writing policy but . . . they are determined, and if you’re a determined person you’ll be in those positions at some point making those decisions,” she said.
For more info about the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s work, go to marinesanctuary.org.