About Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2021

Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, gathers people together from across the U.S. and around the world to engage in a dialogue on how to sustain the health of our ocean and Great Lakes. This year, on June 8-10th, the conference will focus on building a more racially equitable and just movement for ocean and Great Lakes conservation. CHOW is open to the public and free to attendees. The Foundation relies on the generous support of sponsors to host CHOW.


Speaker listings and partner breakout sessions will be added soon. All times ET.

Conference Welcome

CHOW 2021 will open with a circle of connection, offering traditional blessings and tributes to their lands, communities, and the waters that sustain them.

10 mins

CHOW Opening Plenary – Centering Justice and Equity in Ocean and Great Lakes Conservation

The health, well-being, and sustainability of our ocean and Great Lakes depend on the actions we take now and require the experience, knowledge, perspectives, and values of the communities most affected by environmental change.  Achieving justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion requires us to expand access to the decision-making and power structures and increase access to the resources, benefits, and opportunities that come from those structures. CHOW’s opening plenary will look at the historical lack of inclusion and the failure to center justice and equity in ocean and coastal conservation, and how strengthening justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in policymaking, science, and management will improve the sustainability and well-being of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.   The plenary will discuss how the broader ocean and Great Lakes community can work together toward collective action and equitable outcomes in the future.

60 min

Providing for Communities: Food Security and Justice

Many people depend on the ocean and Great Lakes for food.  How can we incorporate subsistence and traditional fishing needs and community-based aquaculture practices, and knowledge of local communities into strengthening fisheries management and ocean conservation? This session will focus on the experiences of communities working on sustainable food systems and strategies that can be employed to expand access to food security in our waters.

60 min

Strengthening Resource and Climate Engagement in U.S. Territories

Picture a map of the U.S.  What do you see?  Did your mind’s eye see Puerto Rico? The U.S. Virgin Islands? The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas?  American Samoa? Guam?  American territories are home to over 4 million people yet they often sit at the periphery of climate change and environmental planning within the U.S. The panel will discuss the unique issues facing US territories regarding climate impacts, ocean health, and control over natural resources and how these islands are rising to meet the challenges in their communities.

60 min

Resilient Coastal Communities

Sponsored by: National Marine Manufacturers Association As our seascapes and coastal landscapes experience rapid change, communities are working to define the future of their health and livelihoods. This panel will highlight the voices of individuals on the ground reckoning with this change and seeking to protect the quality of life of their communities. Participants will share their experiences and perspectives, and strategies that communities are developing to address climate resilience.

60 min

Blue Introspection: Examining Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Ocean and Great Lakes Policy, Science, and Conservation

How would marine and freshwater science, management, and policy change if our workplaces reflected the diversity of our nation? This plenary will examine the commitment to JEDI efforts within federal, research, and non-governmental institutions and agencies, impediments to employment, and strategies necessary to accelerate the hiring of underrepresented and underserved communities within the fields of science, policy, and conservation.

60 min

Eye on the Horizon: Representing Culture in Protected Waters

Protected areas need to represent the full breadth of the American experience and honor co-design and co-management with Indigenous and local communities. This session will explore training the next generation of maritime archaeologists and cultural resource managers, and highlight efforts to make our National Marine Sanctuary System and marine monuments more inclusive of all people. 

60 min

Indigenous and Local Knowledge and Wisdom for Strengthening Conservation

Sponsored by: The Marine Mammal Commission Indigenous knowledge and wisdom strengthens our understanding of the planet and improves decision-making.  National and global discussions often fail to consider this knowledge and wisdom. Indigenous and traditional communities need allies and funders who support their efforts to develop their own organized systems that increase their presence while developing the capacity to respond to the needs of Western science. The panel will highlight examples of how communities and scientists use indigenous and local knowledge and wisdom to address ocean and Great Lakes health and climate impacts.

60 min

Exploring the Intersection of International Policy and Communities

Climate change and sustainable development are common concerns for humankind.  The Paris Agreement, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the Convention on Biological Diversity recognize that the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities should be respected, promoted, and considered in policy agreements.  This plenary will focus on how these international discussions provide a platform for building access and power into policymaking. 

60 min

Opportunities for Federal Policy to Deepen Justice and Equity

In 2022, the nation will celebrate the 50th anniversary of major environmental legislation, including the National Marine Sanctuary Act (part of the Ocean Dumping Act), the Coastal Zone Management Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Congress is also considering legislation to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and address climate change and the ocean.  This plenary will examine federal legislative and executive policies that can move us towards a deeper integration of justice and equity principles.

60 min

Building Back Bluer

Federal, state, and local policy can promote a just transition to a sustainable blue economy by making infrastructure more resilient and investing in nature-based solutions; fostering job training and creation in blue industries such as restoration; and supporting access to our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.  This panel will focus on how to build back bluer to support the U.S. economy and competitiveness. 

60 min

CHOW Closing Plenary – Building the Foundation for Collaboration and Cooperation Across the Ocean and Great Lakes Community

Building off the conversations of the past three days, members of the CHOW Advisory Committee will explore what priorities emerged that can form the basis of an agenda to deepen justice and equity in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes conservation, science and policy? What does collective action look like?  Who needs to be part of the conversation? What roles need to be established and elevated to expand access to decision-making efforts and resources?

60 min


Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2021 Sponsors

Capitol Hill Ocean Week and the Ocean Awards Gala would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors. Be a part of the conversation on the future of our ocean and Great Lakes.

For information on 2021 sponsorship options, click below or contact carol@marinesanctuary.org.


Capitol Hill Ocean Week is grateful for the support of aquariums that further the mission of educating and sharing the wonders of our ocean with the world. 

Please support these institutions and other aquariums as they re-open their doors following the COVID-19 pandemic.









*CHOW 2020 numbers

Why is CHOW 2021 focusing on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI)?

Systemic racism impacts laws, policies, and institutions, resulting in inequitable outcomes for communities across this nation which are impossible to ignore. These inequities require each of us to take action. As an organization, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation believes we need to confront these inequities and identify the steps we can take as a community to address racial equity and justice in ocean conservation, science, and policymaking.


The health, well-being and sustainability of our ocean and Great Lakes depend on the actions we take now to ensure transformative and durable effects. Achieving bold, lasting change in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes policy will require the experience, expertise, perspectives and values of the communities most affected by environmental inequities. CHOW 2021 is an opportunity to examine how exclusionary practices and systemic racism negatively impact conservation, science, and policy. And, how strengthening justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion will improve the sustainability of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes and the communities that depend on them.


The CHOW 2021 program will explore how people and communities vulnerable to climate change are advancing local, regional, and national resiliency efforts and identify potential strategies to address impact. It will examine the intersection of people and the environment and how we ensure that all communities have the same protection from environmental hazards; and equal access to opportunities to maintain a healthy environment to live, learn, and work. The CHOW 2021 program will also look at the intersection of social justice and ocean and Great Lakes resource management and conservation. Ultimately, we believe the conversations from CHOW 2021 will reveal a set of priorities that can emerge as the core of a policy agenda centered on justice and equity; and we believe participants in this event, led by the communities most impacted by these inequities, can lead efforts to shape and advocate for this ocean justice policy agenda in the weeks and months following CHOW 2021.

Be a part of the conversation on the future of our ocean and Great Lakes

Sponsorships for Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2021 and the Ocean Awards Gala are available now. Contact carol@marinesanctuary.org with any questions.

Click here for details

For the second time in conference history, CHOW 2021 will be an all-virtual event.

Our online platform will be inclusive and accessible to attendees all over the United States and the world.

For more about Capitol Hill Ocean Week, archives of CHOWs past, and other information, visit our CHOW main page.

If you have questions, please contact us at conference@marinesanctuary.org.

For information about sponsoring Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2021 or the Ocean Awards Gala, click here. Contact carol@marinesanctuary.org with any questions.

CHOW Advisory Council

The Foundation is pleased to work with an advisory council, led by a team from the Meridian Institute, to help shape the agenda for Capitol Hill Ocean Week in 2021.

Kacky Andrews
Chief of Strategy
Ocean Conservancy

Kate Cell
Climate Campaign Manager
Union of Concerned Scientists

Raimundo Espinoza
Executive Director
Conservación ConCiencia

Jay Haigler
Lead Instructor and Safety Officer
Diving With a Purpose

Andres Jimenez
Executive Director
Green 2.0

Trisha Kehaulani Watson
Owner and Founder
Honua Consulting

Francisco “Paco” Ollervides
Executive Director
Green Leadership Trust

Queen Quet
Chieftess and Head-of-State
Gullah/Geeche Nation

David Riera
FEF McKnight Doctoral Fellow
Hispanic Access Foundation

Amanda Robinson
Fundraising and Operations Manager
Creation Justice Ministries

Jaylene Wheeler
Justice and Equity Director
Kawerak, Inc.


National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Ben Charo
Policy Outreach Coordinator

Shannon Colbert
Policy and Conservation Director

Kris Sarri
President and CEO


Meridian Institute

Kevin Bryan

Jeana Holer
Senior Project Coordinator

Meghan Massaua
Senior Mediator and Program Manager

Liana Quiñones
Project Assistant

Capitol Hill Ocean Week

What started as a small, daylong gathering in 2001 is now Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), the nation’s premier annual conference examining current marine, coastal and Great Lakes policy issues.

Convened by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation every June, CHOW brings together scientists, policymakers, scholars, businesses and conservation leaders to address pressing conservation, science, and management issues facing our oceans and Great Lakes.

The conference is held in conjunction with the Foundation’s Ocean Awards Gala, which recognizes champions of marine and Great Lakes stewardship with Leadership, Lifetime Achievement, Conservation Innovation, and Sanctuary Wavemaker Awards.

Registration is now open!


The next Capitol Hill Ocean Week will be June 8-10, 2021 and focus on justice, equity diversity, and inclusion in the ocean and Great Lakes community.