Foundation President and CEO Kris Sarri to Step Down

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced today that President and CEO Kristen J. Sarri will step down, effective January 1, 2023. 

“Kris accomplished a remarkable amount for the Foundation in the past six years. She created a vision for the Foundation, and working with staff, the Board of Trustees, NOAA, and partners transformed the Foundation into an effective voice for protecting our ocean and Great Lakes through national marine sanctuaries,” said Susie Kondracki, co-chair of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “We will miss her passion and leadership and wish her the very best for the future.”   

“During Kris’ time at the helm, the Foundation became a critical force in helping to significantly expand the impact of the National Marine Sanctuary System. Her vision and passion has elevated the role of the Foundation in ocean and Great Lakes conservation,” said John Armor, Director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “We will miss her dedication and look forward to the next chapter in our partnership.” 

Kris joined the Foundation in 2016 with a vision to bring America’s marine sanctuaries to the forefront of ocean and Great Lakes conservation in the U.S., centered around the many diverse communities and organizations critical to improving the well-being of these treasured places. Under Kris’s leadership, the Foundation developed programs focused on wildlife conservation, underwater marine debris cleanup and habitat restoration, and advocated for new and expanded sanctuaries – championing the belief that our sanctuaries are living laboratories, classrooms, and partnership hubs where we can explore how to improve conservation and management. The Foundation grew Capitol Hill Ocean Week into the nation’s premier marine public policy conference, successfully transitioning it to a virtual and now hybrid conference with over 1,000 participants joining nationally. Kris also launched the Foundation’s first-ever corporate partnership program to support our National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation’s budget has grown by over 30 percent, expanding resources to protect sanctuaries. 

Working with the Lenfest Ocean Program, the Foundation initiated a unique project to assess marine biodiversity in U.S. waters and provide decision tools to guide the establishment of more sanctuaries and other protected areas – a crucial step to safeguarding the diversity of life and cultural resources in our waters and engaging people in stewardship.   

To aid community-based efforts to create and expand sanctuaries, the Foundation partnered with NORC to conduct the first-of-its-kind national opinion survey on ocean conservation. The results from the survey demonstrate the public’s backing for more marine protected areas and the desire for actionable solutions. In response, the Foundation launched an electronic toolkit to engage diverse audiences in conservation, whose support is critical to the future of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.   

“It is an honor to work with the dedicated team at the Foundation, NOAA and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and in the dozens of communities nationwide that dedicate themselves to improving and expanding our nation’s system of marine sanctuaries. These are talented and dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to protect our ocean and Great Lakes,” said Kris Sarri, president and CEO. “We are at a critical juncture in addressing the growing threats to our ocean and Great Lakes. Working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders, building partnerships for conservation, and continuing to engage the public in our mission is more important now than ever. As caretakers, educators, and members of sanctuary communities, the staff and Trustees of the Foundation make invaluable contributions. It has been my privilege to work with all of them, and I feel immense pride in the strides we’ve made together.”  

Mark McDade, co-chair of the Board of Trustees, shared, “The Foundation is growing, and we believe it is a strong organization, stronger than it has ever been. The board appointed a CEO search committee that, with the assistance of an external search firm, will seek candidates for the position. We have a highly committed staff that is second to none. They will continue the work that Kris started.”  


Kris Sarri on a visit to the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Photo credit: Kris Sarri