By Alexander Dacy, guest author
Protecting the waters of our national marine sanctuaries serve as a basis for thriving recreation, tourism and commercial activities that drive coastal economies. On Saturday, August 12, national marine sanctuaries across the nation will celebrate these special places by inviting the public to participate in a wide-ranging set of activities during the third National Get into Your Sanctuary Day.
“Few places on the planet can compete with the diversity of the National Marine Sanctuary System,” said Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “Get Into Your Sanctuary Day is a great opportunity for the public to enjoy recreating in our sanctuaries in a responsible manner through a variety of informative, family-friendly, and hands-on activities.”
Remember to let us know how you got into your sanctuaries by sharing your photos on social media with the hashtag #ILoveMySanctuary! Or you can submit them to the Get into Your Sanctuary Day photo contest! Submit photos through August 31 that illustrate the importance of protecting national marine sanctuaries and highlight the many ways people and communities experience these special places. You can find additional contest details here.
Here are six ways you can get into your sanctuary:
1) Dive right in
One of the best ways to learn about anything is to explore it firsthand, and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, is planning a variety of opportunities for you to do just that! Activities include guided kayaking, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, boating, and hiking tours of the island chain coined the “Galapagos of North America.”
2) Enjoy some friendly competition
Want a true community celebration of sanctuaries? Then look no further than Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary located west of Seattle. The sanctuary is hosting a variety of festival activities, including a guided beach and tidepool exploration, a beach barbecue, games, a costume contest, a beach sand art contest, and a beach parade where you can dress like your favorite sea creature. Be sure to bring your creative spirit to all the activities! For those looking for more of a thrill, a Get Into Your Sanctuary Day plunge into the Pacific Ocean is scheduled for 2 p.m.
3) Experience something new
Enjoy learning and trying new things? The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, the most remote in the sanctuary system, will host day-long “eco-tours” of the Aunu’u sanctuary area. The day will include opportunities to taste local cuisine, learn about traditional crafts, and explore the science and natural beauty of the sanctuary.
Speaking of new, a new, proposed sanctuary — Wisconsin-Lake Michigan — is also planning Get into Your Sanctuary Day activities. In Sheboygan, Wisconsin, about an hour north of Milwaukee, visitors can take a scenic boat tour of the proposed sanctuary and learn about shipwrecks and the region’s vast maritime history.
4) Marine animals galore
Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary in northern California is hosting a trifecta of activities for you to explore the sanctuary hands-on. The Sanctuary Explorations cruise, for ages 10 and older, will depart San Francisco and travel 27 miles offshore to the Farallon Islands, where you will search for sights of whales, seabirds, sea lions, and other marine creatures. Or bring the family and take part in a crab workshop, where you can learn about crab anatomy and fish for crabs off of the sanctuary’s pier. If games are more up your alley, play Bird Bingo! Pick up a game sheet at the visitor’s center and stroll around the nearby beach and marsh, checking off birds you see on the bingo board. Prizes will be awarded for completed bingo boards!
*NOTE: Pre-registration for the Sanctuary Exploration cruise and family workshops is required; space is limited and there is a fee. Please contact Sara Heintzelman to reserve a spot: firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-530-5366.
5) Can you hear me now?
Get into Your Sanctuary Day champions education about America’s national marine sanctuaries, and what better way to learn about the wonders of the system than through a conversation with some experts. Scientists and educators aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus will participate in a live ship-to-shore telecast with sanctuary visitors at Cordell Bank, Florida Keys, Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, and Monitor sanctuaries. Times for these broadcasts can be found here. Nautilus, which maps unexplored areas in the Pacific Ocean and further studies the marine life it encounters, will be surveying the depths of Cordell Bank off the north central California coast. Scientists will explain their work, talk about what they have discovered in their years of exploration, and answer any other questions you have. In addition, anyone can tune in at nautiluslive.org to watch the live stream of seafloor explorations as the vessel continues along Cordell Bank.
6) A whole new world
Even if you are unable to literally get into your sanctuary, you can still explore these underwater treasures anytime and anywhere with virtual reality dives! Explore Flower Garden Banks, Gray’s Reef, and Thunder Bay sanctuaries on your computer or smartphone at sanctuaries.noaa.gov/vr/. Put on a VR headset and interact with schools of Atlantic spadefish or brick-red coral, for example, and take in 360-degree views of breathtaking underwater vistas.
*For more information about Get into Your Sanctuary Day and a complete list of activities, visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov/visit/giys.html.*