Just in case anyone thought Santa Cruz didn’t already have enough ocean love to go around, a new environmental group has come to town, and it’s looking to carve out its own niche in the Monterey Bay.
“We don’t want to come in as a new nonprofit that will take away from anyone else, but we feel there are some gaps,” says Laura Kasa, who’s consulting for the newly created Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (MBNMSF).
As an example, the new foundation could create an ocean festival, Kasa says, that supports other ocean-oriented groups—Save Our Shores, Save the Waves, Surfrider Foundation, O’Neill Sea Odyssey, and even Patagonia’s volunteer network.
“This chapter could help raise all boats,” says Kasa, a former director of Save Our Shores.
The new Monterey Bay group is a local chapter of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and the Central Coast represents something of a test market for the national group, which has set its sights on opening similar chapters in other coastal communities around the country. The local group has secured a matching grant of $100,000. Fundraising is already well underway, but leaders will look to raise at least $48,000 over the next couple of months.
Announced this past fall, the MBNMSF has also signed on heavyweights with deep political and oceanic ties, enlisting boardmembers like former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, former Congressmember Sam Farr, former Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant, former state Assemblymember Fred Keeley, and the O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s Dan Haifley.
Among the group’s goals, Kasa says, is to boost visitorship at the Sanctuary Exploration Center. Kasa says she hopes to raise awareness about elements of ocean stewardship in the federally protected sanctuary, like not hassling local sea life. Elkhorn Slough had 313 wildlife disturbances—including humans taking “selfies” with animals—last year, 226 of which were of otters.
Another issue the foundation will be highlighting is a troubling trend of whales getting entangled in fishing equipment. Of about 50 whale entanglements reported each year, nearly half are in the Monterey Bay.
Kasa says Panetta, who served in President Barack Obama’s administration, has suggestions on how to engineer Dungeness crab traps in ways that could be safer for whales. The solutions may not be easy, she says, but the ocean ecosystem depends on it.
“Getting Osama Bin Laden was difficult, but Leon did it,” Kasa says. “What could be more difficult than that?”
Update 5/21/2018: A previous version of this story featured incomplete information about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s funding situation and goals. The article has been updated with the correct information.