A Thanksgiving Message from Kris Sarri, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Isn’t this time of the year wonderful?  We slow down to spend time with family and friends and reflect on what we are thankful for.  

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the people who partner with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to help us conserve and restore America’s protected waters by removing marine debris, a global problem facing our world’s waters. From plastic straws to derelict fishing gear, it threatens aquatic life and sensitive habitats. Plastic alone will outweigh fish in our ocean if we fail to take strong, concerted action to reduce marine pollution.

An albatross investigates a toothbrush that washed up on the beach in Midway Atoll, part of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo Credit: David Slater/NOAA PIFSC CREP

Here are actions we and our partners took this year to remove marine debris:

Divers with a purpose in the Florida Keys. As part of Goal Clean Seas: Florida Keys, the Foundation is working with Blue Star Dive Operators and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to remove debris and restore coral reefs. This year, over 270 divers collected more than 5,900 lbs of debris and more than a mile of line and rope from the reefs and seafloor of the sanctuary.

Divers using a lift bag to remove a derelict lobster trap and other debris. Photo courtesy of Alisia Carlson

Coastsavers in Washington State. Communities across the country are uniting through the annual International Coastal Cleanup to prevent debris from entering our ocean. The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, as part of Washington Coastsavers, removed over 7,500 lbs of debris along the shoreline of the Olympic Peninsula.  And, a new partnership formed; they are working with the Million Waves Project which reclaims ocean plastic and turns it into 3D printed prosthetic limbs.


A nine-year old Million Waves Project prosthetic hand recipient, Abbey McPherren picking up debris at Hobuck Beach. The Million Waves Project takes reclaimed ocean plastics that are classified as #1 and turns them into 3-D printed prosthetic limbs. Photo credit: NOAA OCNMS

Dedicated volunteers and staff tirelessly working in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Marine pollution impacts even one of our most pristine and isolated areas of the ocean: Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. This month, with support from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, a team of divers coordinated by the Ecosystem Sciences Division of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, spent 41 days pulling nets off of reefs and walking shorelines to clean up marine debris. They collected 82 tons of trash!

Conducting shoreline marine debris removals at Lisianski Island in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument a favor and pack it out!
Photo Credit: NOAA

Volunteers provide thousands of hours of support to conserve our sanctuaries and monuments, and their passion is inspiring. I’m thankful for the impact they are making both on the health of our ocean and their communities. I would also like to thank all of the dedicated civil servants who work on behalf of Americans to keep our marine protected areas healthy and beautiful.   

Most of all, I am thankful for the hope I feel when I see so many people discovering, exploring, and dedicating time to their national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments. We still have so much to do, and I know that I can count on you to help us in protecting these special places.  

I hope you and yours enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving and a peaceful holiday season.

Warmest wishes,

Kristen Sarri
President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation