The ocean and our coastal ecosystems are very dear to the Wolfpack. Did you know, every year 14 million tons of plastic enter our ocean? That's pretty trashy. So in honor of World Oceans Week, we sat down with Chip Weiskotten, Director of Communications for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, to learn more about current efforts we can take to protect our ocean. Plus, you'll also get to learn about unique coastal areas to explore and about Chip's personal favorite marine species — spoiler, you’ve probably never heard of it. 

For every order, we remove 1 pound of trash from our oceans, in partnership with One Earth One Ocean. This year, we are also excited to be partnering with The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to take part in Capitol Hill Oceans Week 2022. 

Check out our latest Trash Talk to learn more about keeping our oceans healthy and clean.

Can you tell us more about the work The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation does? 

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. We directly support America’s national marine sanctuaries through our mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems and preserve cultural and maritime heritage. We accomplish that mission through community stewardship and engagement programs, on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs, and scientific research and exploration. We raise funds for sanctuary programs and directly administer projects including marine debris removal and coral reef restoration.  And finally, we aim to create more stewards to help us protect our ocean and Great Lakes! 

What are some of the major issues our oceans are currently facing?

Climate change and biodiversity loss are fundamentally changing our ocean and Great Lakes. Coastal development increases pressures on ecosystems and communities. Plastic pollution and other marine debris are choking fragile ecosystems such as coral reefs and kelp forests. Multiple demands on resources and space lead to challenging policy and regulatory questions regarding how to best manage uses and sustain livelihoods. At the same time, coastal communities face a multitude of other issues, including migration and displacement, loss of culture, and ensuring equitable access to nature and resources. 

photo credit: Chad King NOAA

What is a marine sanctuary and why are they important to protect?  

While not a perfect comparison, an easy way to think of sanctuaries is as national parks of the ocean. There are currently 15 national marine sanctuaries, and 2 marine national monuments, administered by the U.S. government and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These are the most special and iconic places in U.S. waters, including the Great Lakes, that we as a country have decided we need to protect. While the rules governing each one is a little different, based on input from the local communities, they are all unique and contain important natural and cultural resources. Almost every one has plentiful opportunities for enjoyment and recreation.    

Can you tell us more about Capitol Hill Ocean Week and its impact? 

Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) started as a small, daylong gathering in 2001 and is now the nation's premier annual ocean conservation conference. Every June, we convene scientists, policymakers, scholars, businesses, conservation leaders, and people who are passionate about the environment to address the most pressing conservation, science, and management issues facing our oceans and Great Lakes. It is important to bring every voice into these critical discussions on the future of our world, and thanks to the generous support of our partners and sponsors, CHOW is free and open to everyone. Join us in person or virtually on June 7th and 8th

What campaigns or specific policy efforts are you focusing on in the year ahead?  

This October is the 50th anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, which created our national system of protected U.S. waters.  So this is a big year for us to demonstrate the importance of sanctuaries and keeping them protected for future generations.  Our campaign for the 50th is called Save Spectacular, and it’s an invitation to become stewards of our ocean and Great Lakes—to work collectively to conserve these resources for all Americans to enjoy. We hope that we’ll be able to advocate for the designation of more sanctuaries and marine protected areas in the coming year. 

photo credit: Matt McIntosh NOAA

What are some of your favorite coastal areas to explore?  

Last fall, I was fortunate to visit Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of northern California, which is one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.  Monterey Bay is known as the “Serengeti of the Sea” because of its amazing biodiversity, and there is wonderful hiking along the coast, surfing, sailing and more. National marine sanctuaries are for people to enjoy, and there is so much to do in each one of them. I also love kayaking among the “Ghost Fleet” of hundred-year-old shipwrecks at Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary in Maryland, and whale watching in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Boston.  

Do you have a favorite marine species you would like to tell our community more about?  

I want to make it my personal mission to make sure everyone falls in love with the mola mola!  Also known as the ocean sunfish, they are often seen lying on their side to soak up the sun's rays. Although they may look like an amorphous blob floating on the surface of the water, they are actually the largest bony fish in the ocean, stretching 10 feet across and weighing almost 5,000 pounds! Mola mola are curious creatures and will often approach divers for a friendly hello. You can find these gentle giants swimming in many of our national marine sanctuaries, like Olympic Coast, Cordell Bank and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuaries. 

photo credit: Maps for Good NOAA

Lastly, how can our community get involved and make their voices heard?

We are all stewards of our ocean and Great Lakes—for the species that depend on them, the communities that rely on them, and for future generations. We invite students, scientists, visitors, businesses, and volunteers to work with us to monitor the health of our sanctuaries and monuments, restore fragile ecosystems, remove marine debris, and build public awareness of our ocean and Great Lakes and the role we play in their stewardship. We want to inspire new guardians for our great waters and demonstrate how the sanctuaries can serve as a model for protecting marine ecosystems across the globe. Our sanctuaries and monuments are an essential part of the global effort to conserve more of nature, reduce biodiversity loss, build climate resilience, and increase our ability to adapt to climate change. We hope you will join us in our efforts to advocate for more spectacular protected areas in our ocean and Great Lakes, especially those that strongly safeguard natural and cultural resources. 

The Wolfpack IRL

Written By: 

Amanda Lapham, Wolven Sustainability Specialist 

About The Interviewee: 

Chip Weiskotten is Director of Strategic Communications at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, where he oversees all facets of the Foundation’s messaging and outreach operations. He develops and implements communication strategies to promote and support the Foundation’s ocean and Great Lakes conservation work in traditional and digital media. This includes social media, public relations, promotions and marketing, corporate partnership communications, brand management, internal communications and whatever mini-crisis pops up that day.