Coral Heroes: The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Throughout the Coral Reef Conservation Program’s 20th Anniversary, we are highlighting Coral Heroes — individuals and organizations that have worked with the program and are making a real difference in coral reef conservation.

A green sea turtle gives itself a belly rub on soft coral at the wreck of Benwood in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
A green sea turtle gives itself a belly rub on soft coral at the wreck of Benwood in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Daryl Duda)

The conservation of special places and resources like coral reefs involves many different types of groups. Federal agencies, state and territorial agencies, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations each have distinct strengths that they bring to the table.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation works with the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and local communities to conserve special places in U.S. waters that protect healthy oceans and maritime and cultural history. The foundation focuses on science and conservation, community engagement, and education and outreach in coral reef areas such as American Samoa, the Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks in the Gulf of Mexico, and Papahānaumokuākea in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"Coral reefs—our oceans’ rainforests—are home to an astounding diversity of life. From the deepsea to shallow coastal waters, our national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments protect these critical ecosystems for the health of our ocean and the communities that rely on them,” says Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “Climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, marine debris, and invasive species are very real threats to corals. As stewards of our planet, each of us has a role to play in reducing threats to these ecosystems and protecting and restoring them."

The foundation recently opened a local chapter in Florida, joining chapters for Gray’s Reef in Georgia, Monterey Bay in California, and Olympic Coast in Washington. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Foundation engages with government entities, private groups, and public organizations to foster stewardship of the coral reef ecosystem and other natural resources.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is well known for its annual Capitol Hill Ocean Week. The conference, held since 2001, brings together scientists, policy specialists, decision-makers, and more in Washington, D.C. to discuss ocean and Great Lakes issues. Topics in the past included restoration, oceans and human health, and sustainable fisheries.

Corals in the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa
Corals in the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. (NOAA)

"The foundation is proud to support coral reef conservation and our local partners across the national marine sanctuary system,” says Shannon Colbert, Policy and Conservation Director for the foundation. “We are supporting projects to remove underwater marine debris that is choking reefs, as well as restoration efforts in the Florida Keys, and long-term monitoring and coral spawning of the Gulf's healthiest reefs in Flower Garden Banks and American Samoa to assess the health of these wonders, including some of the planet's largest and oldest single coral colonies."

We look forward to working with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, across NOAA and with local communities to improve coral reef ecosystems.

Follow the celebration on our Facebook and Twitter pages and the National Ocean Service Instagram page all year using the hashtag #NOAACoral20th.

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