National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to honor ocean champions at 15th annual Ocean Awards Gala

Photo: Matt Ryb

Contact: Marcus Reamer,, (301) 608-3040 x 311

2017 Ocean Awards Gala honorees

Silver Spring, MD; April 24, 2017 — Today, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced its 2017 Ocean Awards Gala honorees: Roger and Vicki Sant; Representative Suzanne Bonamici; Kevin Powers; and Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute). The four awards will be presented at the gala on June 13, 2017.

“Roger and Vicki Sant, Suzanne Bonamici, Kevin Powers, and Esri inspire us through their dedication to engaging communities in marine conservation,” said Kris Sarri, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.  “From on-the-ground volunteerism and empowerment to making technology accessible for community-based decision-making, this year’s honorees give us optimism for the future of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.”


 (Photo: Lang Lang International Music Foundation)

Roger and Vicki Sant (above) will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for their commitment to creating a world where people can thrive and nature can flourish. Roger and Vicki express their powerful vision through The Summit Foundation, which they founded in 1991. Through their longstanding commitment to developing local leadership in conservation, and women’s rights and reproductive health, they help change social norms to improve the lives of people and ecosystems, with an emphasis in Mesoamerica. Locally, over a twenty-year period, Roger and Vicki helped realize the vision of a transformed waterway in the heart of the Nation’s Capital – the Anacostia River – through cleanups and stakeholder partnerships for more livable communities. In 2008, they partnered with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and NOAA to create the Sant Ocean Hall, one of the world’s largest marine collections. Sant Ocean Hall educates millions of visitors every year about marine life and human dependence on a healthy ocean. Roger and Vicki’s commitment to philanthropy resonates with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s commitment to communities and the environment.


 (Photo: U.S. House of Representatives)

Representative Suzanne Bonamici (above) of Oregon’s 1st District will receive the Leadership Award. This award honors political leaders who demonstrate a commitment to ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes stewardship. Through their work on policy and governance, Leadership Award honorees help our Nation conserve marine and Great Lakes environments by supporting sound science and conservation action, both locally and nationally. The Foundation recognizes Congresswoman Bonamici’s leadership and tremendous contributions to ocean conservation and restoration, including sustainable fisheries, ocean monitoring and forecasting, marine debris and pollution prevention, ocean energy, climate change and ocean acidification, and her overall support for environmental stewardship throughout her service.


 (Photo: Tasia Blough/NOAA)

Kevin Powers (above) will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award for his contributions to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, located near the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. This award highlights the important role volunteers play in our national marine sanctuaries and the national awardee is selected from nominees from each marine sanctuary. Kevin, an internationally-known seabird researcher, started volunteering at Stellwagen Bank in 2013. His work in 2016, which included more than 1,000 hours of service in wildlife observation fieldwork, data analysis, and participation in the Sanctuary Advisory Council, earned him his nomination. Kevin’s dedication to seabird conservation and engaging new participants in the sanctuary’s work benefits Stellwagen Bank and the entire National Marine Sanctuary System.


 (Photo: Esri)


Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute), the global leader in spatial analytics, will receive the Foundation’s first-ever Conservation Innovation Award for their ceaseless work to ensure ocean scientists, resource managers, and conservationists can better respond to changing pressures on the world’s marine and coastal environments. Esri’s platform allows anyone to discover, analyze and share information through its award-winning story maps. More recently, Esri provided access to access data including salinity, temperature, oxygen levels and nutrients through its Ecological Marine Units mobile app.  All this information and technology is open and available for schools to inspire the next generation of ecologically-minded STEM students.


The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s annual Ocean Awards Gala will be held at 6:00 p.m. on June 13, 2017 at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The­­­­­­ Ocean Awards Gala coincides with Capitol Hill Ocean Week®, the nation’s largest ocean policy conference, also hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. For more information on Capitol Hill Ocean Week and the Ocean Awards Gala or to purchase tickets, visit