2021 Blue Beacon Series Celebrates Protecting Our Great Waters and Cultural Heritage

This year, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Blue Beacon Series will focus on the role of people as stewards of our blue planet. We hope you join us to discover what lies beneath the waves and how working together, we can protect our rich cultural and natural heritage.

As with the Blue Beacon Series events last year, which included events on America’s Pacific marine monuments and Wisconsin’s Shipwreck Coast, the events will remain virtual. 

February – Towards More Representative Maritime Heritage  

Beneath the water’s surface lie shipwrecks, aircrafts and cultural artifacts that tell the history of our country. On the bed of the St. Claire River and under the waves of Lake Huron lie two World War II fighter planes. These aircraft were piloted by Flight Officer Nathaniel Rayburg and Second Lt. Frank Moody, who were Tuskegee Airmen – the first African American military pilots in U.S. history. The Tuskegee program trained almost 1,000 pilots who flew 1,578 missions and won over 850 medals. These pilots primarily served in the 99th Pursuit Squadron, a decorated unit that shielded bombers from enemy attack in raids over Italy and North Africa. Their success not only contributed to the war effort, it paved the way for further integration of the U.S. armed forces in the coming years. Join us as we honor the sacrifice, achievement, and heroism of African American WWII Service Members and discuss how our nation’s maritime heritage can highlight their stories, which should not be forgotten. 


May/June Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of Papahānaumokuākea 

2021 marks 15 years since the designation of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. One of the largest protected areas on Earth, Papahānaumokuākea is the first mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Site in the United States – one of only 26 mixed sites in the world. Papahānaumokuākea’s globally significant natural attributes incorporate its living, indigenous, and cultural connections to the sea. Modern Hawaiian wayfinders still voyage in these waters on traditional double-hulled sailing canoes.  The monument is cooperatively managed and was designed collaboratively to ensure that it would not only protect its expansive marine ecosystems but also perpetuate Native Hawaiian culture and heritage resources. Join us as we celebrate this amazing place and the lessons we can learn from its successful co-management.


August – Embracing Collaborative Conservation in Future Sanctuaries 

Located almost 2,800 miles apart, the proposed Chumash Heritage and St. George Unangan Heritage National Marine Sanctuaries share a common thread: the Unangan and Chumash communities are bringing the power of traditional ecological knowledge to improve understanding of the changing ocean and its impacts to communities and to strengthen protection of the ocean and their heritage through sanctuary designations.  This event will highlight these achievements and explore how establishing co-designed and co-managed marine protected areas can support conservation for stronger communities, vibrant traditions and culture, and a healthy ocean.


October – Innovative Approaches in Whale Conservation

Whales are some of the most awe-inspiring, intelligent animals on our planet. They also face a multitude of serious issues –  including ship strikes, entanglement, and underwater noise – that threaten their long term survival. This event will highlight innovative approaches in whale conservation that are helping to address these problems and ensure healthy whale populations into the future.


November – Mission: Iconic Reefs

Mission: Iconic Reefs is a bold initiative to restore coral ecosystems at seven iconic reefs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This community restoration effort began in 2019 and draws upon expertise from around the world. Join us as we explore how Mission: Iconic Reefs is harnessing innovative approaches that break down barriers, testing cutting edge restoration science and technologies, and fostering community stewardship centered around  these iconic ecosystems.

We look forward to seeing you at all of our upcoming Blue Beacon Series events!

Seascape of Elbow Reef in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Daryl Duda