NRDC’s Karen Garrison to Receive Highest Award for Ocean Conservation

SAN FRANCISCO (May 15, 2013) – Karen Garrison, oceans champion and co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Ocean Program, will be recognized today as a 2013 “Hero of the Seas” by the prestigious Peter Benchley Ocean Awards. Presented by Blue Frontier Campaign, the award, which is named for Jaws author and long-time shark advocate Peter Benchley, is dedicated to recognizing excellence in ocean conservation solutions in the areas of science, policy, media, youth, and citizen activism.

For more than a decade, Garrison has worked tirelessly to protect precious ocean life along California’s coastline. Building support with conservationists, scientists, fishermen and policymakers, Garrison has played a key role in the development of California’s landmark network of underwater parks.

Since the late 1990s, Garrison has devoted herself to the creation, passage, and implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act. Following reports in 1997 that less than one percent of California state waters were fully protected, Garrison helped set in motion a push by legislators to bring California’s ocean stewardship into the 21st century.

“Karen’s contributions to ocean conservation are immeasurable,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “She is a community builder, always eager to pull together coastal residents, divers, fishermen, surfers, businesspeople, and anyone else who has a stake in the oceans. And using the best scientific research available, she advocates for their collective interest like no other.”

Garrison 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. And 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.

This year’s fellow honorees include President Macky Sall of Senegal, a West African head of state who has banned foreign fishing fleets from his nation’s waters; ocean scientists Boris Worm and Heike Lotze from Canada who are expanding the world’s knowledge of marine ecology; Representative Ed Markey, a long time ocean champion from Massachusetts; Nancy Baron and COMPASS, an ocean communicator whose organization helps translate ocean science to achieve greater public understanding; Sean Russell, a young man from Florida who has implemented safe disposal systems for fishing lines and Kaitilin Gaffney, who also played a key role in developing California’s system of marine reserves.