National marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers closed to the public; waters remain open

NOAA's national marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers are closed to the public while the waters remain open for responsible use in accordance with CDC guidance and local regulations. More information on the response from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries can be found on

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A. Community Characteristics

Effective community-based education and outreach are fundamental components of resource protection and conservation. Education, involvement and ultimately, stewardship, need to be accelerated in all coastal environments or the United States will lose its economic base of natural resources. It has been documented in studies that the general public does not rate ocean stewardship as a high priority. A response given by the general public in a 1999 national survey conducted by The Ocean Project states, "At the moment, the oceans are not perceived to be in immediate danger, and the need for action to protect the oceans is not readily apparent."1

The Central Coast, like much of California, supports culturally diverse communities including extensive Hispanic populations centered in the cities of Watsonville, Salinas and San Jose. A recent study released in August 1999 by the California Research Bureau (CRB)2 shows that Hispanics are California's fastest-growing demographic group. Two of the largest Hispanic communities on the Central Coast are located along the Monterey Bay between Monterey and Santa Cruz. The city of Salinas is a major agricultural center in Monterey County's Salinas Valley, less than 15 miles from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Over 50% of its approximately 140,000 residents identify themselves as Hispanic. The city of Watsonville is located in the Pajaro Valley in Santa Cruz County, about five miles inland. Nearly 70% of Watsonville's population is Latino, making the city of 38,000 the 21st largest Hispanic market in the United States. Watsonville is also a young town, with almost 34% of its population under 18 years of age. Both the Watsonville and Salinas areas are nationally-significant agricultural centers; the Salinas Valley grows more produce than any other county in the U.S., including 80% of the nation's lettuce, thus earning it the nickname "The Salad Bowl of the World." The agricultural industry adjacent to the Sanctuary grosses approximately $5 billion per year, and supports many Hispanic residents of the area.3

The CRB study also showed Hispanics earning significantly less and achieving lower educational levels than other ethnic groups. Many local academic, private and government organizations share a commitment to provide Hispanics with better access to science and technology and to create educational opportunities for Hispanic youth, adults and families. To date, the MBNMS has translated some basic materials into Spanish in an effort to reach the Hispanic community. Although these materials are available, the Sanctuary is not effectively reaching this large constituent group.

Despite some substantial efforts by other private and governmental organizations, marine conservation education and outreach programs to the central California Hispanic community are generally lacking in number, effectiveness, accessibility and consistency. This is commonly due to insufficiencies in the infrastructure and funding that are necessary for long-term commitment and nurturing of community relationships. To assure a successful collaborative program, resources and knowledge need to be pooled and a commitment of full support is required to create a sustained and productive community commitment into the future.

B. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

The MBNMS is a federally protected marine area offshore of California's central coast (Fig. 1). Stretching from Marin County to Cambria (just north of Morro Bay), it encompasses nearly 300 miles of shoreline, 6,094 square statute miles of ocean and extends from mean high tide to a seaward boundary an average of 35 miles offshore. At its deepest point the MBNMS reaches depths of 3,250 meters (nearly two miles). It is the nation's largest national marine sanctuary and by volume, possibly the world's largest as well (Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the largest by area).

The MBNMS was designated in 1992 by authority of the Secretary of Commerce (under the 1972 Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act) because:

  • The area is of special national significance due to its resource or human-use values
  • existing state and federal authorities were inadequate to ensure coordinated and comprehensive conservation and management of the area, including resource protection, scientific research, and public education
  • designation of the area would ensure comprehensive conservation and management, including resource protection, scientific research, and public education
  • the area is of a size and nature that will permit comprehensive and coordinated conservation and management.

The MBNMS also supports a wide variety of commercial ventures important to both the local and national economy. For example, commercial fishing provides over $50 million per year and 2,000 jobs to local economies of the MBNMS2 and tourism in Monterey County alone (most of it centered on or adjacent to the ocean) is responsible for nearly $2 billion per year and is approaching 20,000 travel and tourism related jobs.3

C. Rationale, Methods and Objectives

The MBNMS 1992 Final EIS/Management Plan states the need to "Broaden support for the Sanctuary and Sanctuary management by offering programs suited to an audience with a range of diverse interests" and, "Collaborate with other organizations interested in extension and outreach programs" (see Section IV. Education, PageV-24). The development and implementation of an outreach plan for the Hispanic community is well supported by these mandates. The U. S. Department of Commerce includes achievement of environmental stewardship as a prime goal in its mission statement. Clearly, achieving stewardship cannot be accomplished without public awareness, connection, and involvement. The MBNMS is prepared to meet that goal by initiating, planning, and implementing a large-scale community effort to expand and improve marine outreach and education to the local Hispanic community.

This component of the MBNMS Multicultural Education Program, known as the MERITO Plan, will focus on conservation messages in the context of multiple uses in order to help make a meaningful connection between the Hispanic communities and neighboring coastal environments. With eleven coastal watersheds that drain to almost 300 miles of coastline, contaminated runoff draining from the watersheds is of great concern to the Sanctuary. Sources of pollution include both urban and agricultural runoff. Coastal issues such as declining water quality, degraded wetland habitats, and multiple use conflicts require an informed public aware of the issues and of potential solutions. Crafting and delivering messages that celebrate diverse uses of the Sanctuary will help forge a connection with the ocean and carry the Hispanic public towards awareness and stewardship of the MBNMS. Emphasizing culturally relevant marine activities, such as fishing, will help to make the nexus between our human actions on land, the resulting impacts to the Sanctuary, and ultimately our own quality of life.

The MERITO Plan is the culmination of a long and purposeful planning process, beginning with the development of bilingual (Spanish and English) outreach materials such as posters, brochures, and hands-on tools in July 1996. The posters and brochures educate the general public and school children about urban runoff and ways to prevent storm drain pollution. These popular materials accompany a hands-on watershed model that is available for teachers to check out from the Sanctuary. Classroom activities from the Project WET curriculum were translated into Spanish to accompany the model. The watershed model outreach has educated well over 10,000 students since inception. In 1998, two nonprofit groups incorporated the Sanctuary's watershed model into their programming. Save The Whales added the model to its existing hands-on marine mammal outreach program and has reached over 2,500 bilingual Salinas elementary school children with a Sanctuary awareness message. Save Our Shores adapted the Sanctuary's model to reach bilingual students in the Santa Cruz area, and S.E.A. Lab Monterey Bay, a new ocean science residential program, used the model during their 2000 summer pilot. This tool has become a cornerstone of their bilingual outreach program.

In 1999, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary supported a number of discrete bilingual outreach projects including: a bilingual door-to-door campaign in partnership with the City of Watsonville with a focus on motor oil recycling, water conservation techniques and storm drain pollution prevention; bilingual bus advertisements; a bilingual "Dirty Word" radio campaign highlighting urban runoff prevention; a bilingual restaurant video on best management practices to prevent storm drain pollution; and an online Spanish-language teacher curriculum. In addition, the Sanctuary supported a week-long summer pilot of S.E.A Lab Monterey Bay, which worked largely with Hispanic students. In short, the Sanctuary has successfully launched and supported a number of focused programs targeting the Hispanic community that have been well received and effective in their limited capacity. These programs serve as building blocks for the MERITO Plan and place the Sanctuary in an ideal position at the center of a framework upon which the pieces for a community-based model can be built.

Twenty-four pre-planning meetings and numerous follow-up communications preceded the development of the Multicultural Education Plan. Beginning in September 2000, personal interviews were conducted with leading representatives from Hispanic schools, universities, government agencies, private and nonprofit groups, and industry. During the meetings, Sanctuary staff were able to:

  • share and present information about the Sanctuary (many groups were not aware of the Sanctuary's role);
  • gather specific information (a survey and needs assessment) about their program and services currently offered to Hispanic students, teachers, parents, adults, and families;
  • request open-ended input on how the Sanctuary might support their efforts and expand outreach to the Hispanic community.

Using the information gathered through the meetings, the MBNMS has worked with Hispanic representatives to 1) identify the critical gaps and "areas of need" which are summarized in Appendix A (Survey & Needs Assessment: Education & Outreach Programs for Hispanic Audiences), 2) plan a series of partnership projects that address Hispanic marine conservation education and outreach needs and build upon successful existing community programs, and 3) develop strategies for implementing and evaluating the partnership projects. The results of this planning are detailed in the next section. The Multicultural Education Plan currently has twenty community partners onboard (listed in Appendix 2) to assist with implementation of Phase One in 2001.

The strength of the Multicultural Education Plan is that the MBNMS will be the focus for a long-term, multi-agency collaborative program that utilizes a multi-level approach to expand and improve outreach and education to the local Hispanic community. Through this program, the MBNMS will be able to effectively address resource threat reduction in the context of the needs of the Hispanic community. As local Hispanic organizations continue to provide their services to the community, the Sanctuary will help generate the additional people power and funding required to expand existing efforts and to initiate new programs in the identified areas of need. The MBNMS will also organize the evaluation and interpreted results of each partnership project in the context of the larger community. The Sanctuary will serve as a communications "pipeline" to facilitate the sharing of resources and information within the community. Educational materials, including bilingual brochures, curricula, teaching kits, CD-ROMS and fact sheets will be developed with specific input from organizations involved in the Multicultural Education Plan. Finally, local organizations that serve the Hispanic community can use their involvement with the MERITO Plan as added justification of their work when submitting grant proposals. The resulting community development will help to promote the National Marine Sanctuary System's goals of conservation and wise resource management.