Having recently completed my master’s degree at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, I was thrilled to remain in town and start my fellowship with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. My first week of work was extremely hands-on, complete with sanctuary staff meetings, responding to a proposal for a marine shipping working group, and a trip out to the Channel Islands.
My fellowship’s main objective is to support a dynamic management planning process for marine shipping in the Santa Barbara Channel, which has the potential to reduce fatal ship strikes on several species of endangered whales. In addition, the sanctuary is hopeful this multi-stakeholder collaboration will have positive impacts on air pollution levels, navigational safety concerns, and conflicts with naval operations.
On my first day at the office, I was given a tour and introduced to coworkers before quickly jumping right into the marine shipping working group issue and reviewed a proposal created by the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), a nonprofit environmental law firm. I prepared comments on behalf of the sanctuary and then met with the EDC the next day to discuss ways to further develop the proposal.
Later in the week, I participated in a staff meeting involving the Resource Protection Coordinators from all West Coast national marine sanctuaries to discuss current enforcement issues, such as illegal fishing. This provided me with the chance to learn a great deal about current issues and the inner workings of the sanctuaries.
To wrap up my first week, I joined a whale watching excursion to test an updated version of Spotter Pro, an iOS app that allows for real-time marine mammal data collection in the West Coast sanctuaries. Currently, volunteers use this app to upload whale-sighting data into an online database, which the sanctuary and shipping industry may use to inform management decisions pertaining to whale ship strikes in the future. During our outing, I had the chance to field test the new app version and was fortunate enough to observe eight gray whales on their southbound migration!
I am excited to know that this has just been the start of my fellowship and look forward to all the opportunities that still await!
Written by Sean Herron