For more than a decade, Karen Garrison has worked tirelessly to protect precious ocean life along California’s coastline. Building support with conservationists, scientists, fishermen and policymakers, Karen has played a key role in the development of California’s landmark network of underwater parks. Now this ocean champion and co-director of NRDC’s Ocean Program is being honored with the highest award for ocean conservation. We couldn’t be more proud.
On May 15, Karen will be recognized as a “Hero of the Seas” as part of the prestigious Peter Benchley Ocean Awards. Named for Jaws author and long-time shark advocate Peter Benchley, this major awards program is dedicated to recognizing excellence in ocean conservation solutions in the areas of science, policy, media, youth, and citizen activism. Karen is a magnificent choice for the citizen activism award.
Since the late 1990s, Karen has devoted herself to the creation, passage, and implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). Following reports in 1997 that less than one percent of California state waters was fully protected, Karen helped set in motion a movement among legislative leaders to bring California’s ocean stewardship into the 21st century. Karen built support for the legislation and, overcoming a Governor’s veto in 1998, facilitated the enactment of the MLPA in 1999 with broad bipartisan support. Just this past year, the network of areas protected under the MLPA was completed, comprising 16 percent of California’s coastal waters and extending from the Oregon border to San Diego. Karen’s contributions to this effort was invaluable—she has worked tirelessly to protect California’s vulnerable ocean resources.
Perhaps California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird put it best. In describing Karen Garrison and award co-winner Kaitlin Gaffney, of the Ocean Conservancy, Laird said, ““They were incredibly successful in persuading others to their view because they listened to people’s concerns, and worked with them to find solutions that worked for all…their contribution to our blue ocean and to the communities that depend upon it is monumental.”