Sea Stars Awards To Be Presented at September 22 benefit for Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

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In celebration of the 27th anniversary of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant, serving as Co-Chairs of the Board of Trustees of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, will be presenting the inaugural Sea Stars Awards at the Foundation’s fundraising brunch from 10 AM to 1 PM on Sunday, September 22, 2019 at Sanctuary Beach Resort’s Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette, 3295 Dunes Drive in Marina.

Tickets to the brunch are available at or checks can be made payable to “Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation”, noted on the memo line “Sea Stars Brunch”, and mailed to 35 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.  Corporate sponsorships are still available.  For more information, contact

Funds raised by the Foundation in 2019 will support education programs conducted by Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary including Bay Net, Team OCEAN programs which work to increase public awareness about the sanctuary to protect marine species and the places they call home, and the Whale Disentanglement Team who work to rescue and prevent whale entanglements.  “Our vision is a healthy Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, recognized as a national treasure for its unique and abundant biodiversity, and widespread community support. This Sanctuary Sea Stars Brunch is the celebration of those community efforts,” says Chapter Director Ginaia Kelly.

“The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation invites people with a stake in the health of the ocean to work with us to protect it. Monterey Bay is a natural wonder and its health relies on the many communities that depend on it and the people who care for it. This year’s Sanctuary Sea Stars inspire us all to join them in safeguarding our ocean and taking action for a thriving ocean and coastal communities,” said Kris Sarri, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

“On behalf of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, I am honored to acknowledge the contributions of this year’s Sea Star Awardees,” says Paul Michel, Sanctuary Superintendent. “These are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things to protect our sanctuary, and inform and inspire the public about ocean conservation. They represent what makes sanctuaries so special and so important in our communities, giving so generously their valuable time and effort to ensure this special place remains special for generations to come.”

Awardees are:

Research: John Ryan, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

John’s research focuses on interactions between marine life and the environments they inhabit, from microscopic plankton to the largest mammals and fish.  John has been a great partner to MBNMS – advising on, and conducting important sound characterization and research in the sanctuary.  John has also been a dedicated partner helping develop, design and install a sound exhibit at the Sanctuary Exploration Center. He has participated in many outreach events using a mobile sound box he designed to educate the public about sound in the ocean.  We are grateful to John and MBARI for their collaboration and significant contributions to our science and education programs.

Resource Protection: Lisa Emanuelson

Lisa exemplifies Sanctuaries’ core values of community, collaboration, respect, creativity, and teamwork through her delivery of high quality education and robust citizen science programs that support and advance resource protection.  She is ever committed and enthusiastic about our mission, leading volunteers in Team OCEAN, Bay Net, and water quality monitoring programs. After 17 years, her impact has reached over 2,500 volunteers to educate more than 500,000 sanctuary visitors on the importance of protecting wildlife and ocean ecosystems. Lisa has truly inspired and empowered everyday citizens to make meaningful contributions that help protect sanctuary watersheds and coastal ecosystems, becoming ocean stewards in their own communities.

Education and Outreach: Brian Nelson

Brian is currently the Sanctuary Advisory Council Chair and Deputy Monterey Harbormaster. But Brian has been much more than that for MBNMS! Brian has been leading the Business and Tourism working group of the Advisory Council, focusing on outreach to our various communities and sanctuary users and stakeholders.  Brian has developed three different newsletters that target Diving, Business and Tourism, and Recreational Fishing.  These newsletters are fantastic. They provide timely information about the sanctuary, sanctuary and related events, how to get involved, and they remind people what MBNMS is. The three newsletters reach nearly 4,000 people and businesses with every edition. Brian also took the lead in educating on cruise ships that come to Monterey, responding thoroughly and timely to Advisory Council and public concerns about cruise ship visits in the sanctuary. This kind of volunteer spirit and action is exactly what sanctuaries need to be relevant, responsive, and important in our communities.

Business and Tourism: Cass Schrock, Monterey Bay Kayaks

Cass is the founding owner of Monterey Bay Kayaks (MBK) and since 1985 has been a pioneer in establishing kayaking as an ecotourism business.  She has dedicated 34 years to kayaking, the environment and recreation in the sanctuary.  Her staff are trained to the highest level– from kayaking skills, to safety and responsible wildlife viewing and encouraged to communicate MBNMS messages and stories to their clients. With locations in Monterey and Moss Landing, hundreds of kayakers have experienced the sanctuary, its incredible beauty and biodiversity. Cass has been a monumental supporter of the sanctuary’s Team Ocean program, providing training and kayak equipment to volunteers from both her shop’s locations in Monterey and Moss Landing. Cass’ strong commitment to ecotourism was reinforced recently when MBK hosted a Responsible Wildlife Viewing Festival for MBNMS’ 2019 Get Into Your Sanctuary.

Sea Star Panetta Award:  PJ Webb

PJ (Margaret) Webb has been a long-time champion, advocate, and leader in protecting MBNMS and educating the public about the importance of marine conservation, sanctuaries, and wildlife protection and care.  Since 2004, PJ has dutifully served as the only Sanctuary Advisory Council representative for the southern region of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, often traveling long distances to attend meetings. She represents the sanctuary at all southern area events such as the Coastal Discovery Center’s Ocean Fair, Coastal Clean Up Day, Snapshot Day, BeachCOMBERS and California’s Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program. In addition, PJ has provided information about the sanctuary through public speaking engagements and has assisted sanctuary staff by keeping them connected to local issues in the southern region.


PJ is highly involved in local issues related to the sanctuary and has participated in many related groups such the Technical Advisory Committee for the Santa Rosa Creek Watershed Management Plan, the Marine Interest Group, and served as a board member of the Otter Project. She also assisted in the nomination of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. In her “spare time”, she volunteers for the Marine Mammal Center in Morro Bay where she has been an active member and team leader for over 13 years.

Margaret is one of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s most active and effective ambassadors. She constantly spreads the word about the sanctuary in her everyday interactions with individuals. Her guidance, energy, humor, and tireless support have been a tremendous help to MBNMS. She wholeheartedly deserves” the Sea Star Award” this year for all her years of service, advocacy, and tireless support for the sanctuary.


Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary National Marine Sanctuary is a treasured place in America’s ocean. It provides home to 36 species of marine mammals, more than 180 species of seabirds and shorebirds, and at least 525 species of fish. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is dedicated to protecting the long-term health of Monterey Bay for the two million residents spread across the five counties adjacent to the sanctuary as well as the millions of tourists who visit the region every year. The Foundation’s mission is to inspire the public to protect Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary through participation in, and support of, sanctuary programs, projects, and partnerships.

The Foundation chapter works in partnership with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to: Engage the public through public outreach and education programs; Advocate on behalf of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary; and, Develop and strengthen partnerships to protect biodiversity and enhance ecosystem health in the sanctuary through coordinated action. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is a chapter of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization. Donations are considered tax-deductible.  For more information:

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