NOAA 03-R428
Contact: Ben Sherman
NOAA News Releases 2003
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Thirty-two volunteer and paid naturalists will take to local waters in sanctuary kayaks to greet and interact with fellow kayakers on Saturday, May 31, 2003. These sanctuary docents, known as “TeamOCEAN Naturalists,” serve as on-the-water educators about sanctuary wildlife, promote respectful wildlife viewing and protect marine mammals from human disturbance. This is the third summer season for the TeamOCEAN Kayaker Outreach Program operated by the NOAA Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency in the Commerce Department.

“There are many benefits associated with our TeamOCEAN Naturalist Program, including the opportunity to engage kayakers, both locals and visitors, and ocean-related businesses as partners in communicating a message of stewardship to all sanctuary users,” said Sanctuary Superintendent William J. Douros. “In an area with an estimated 30,000 kayak rentals and tours each year, TeamOCEAN Naturalists provide an important service by enhancing the kayaking experience, while at the same time reducing unintentional harassment of sensitive and threatened marine mammals. We especially appreciate the volunteers who augment the few paid kayakers on the TeamOCEAN Naturalist team.”

The sanctuary’s TeamOCEAN Naturalists will be on the water throughout the summer every Friday through Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in both Elkhorn Slough and along Monterey’s Cannery Row area. So that they may be spotted easily, TeamOCEAN kayaks are distinctively labeled National Marine Sanctuary. The kayaking public is encouraged to paddle up and ask the naturalists questions about the sanctuary, the marine ecosystem and surrounding wildlife.

TeamOCEAN Naturalists have no enforcement authority; they do not write tickets or issue warnings. They do ask fellow kayakers to maintain an appropriate distance from marine mammals and, when necessary, will ask boaters to back away from animals to avoid disturbing them. The naturalists help kayakers learn to recognize the behaviors that animals show when they are nervous, before they become disturbed and swim away.

Over 3500 kayak users were contacted by the sanctuary’s TeamOCEAN Naturalists in 2002. Ninety percent of the conversations were informative and proactive and did not involve any issues of marine mammal harassment. TeamOCEAN Naturalists did record a total of 87 individual wildlife disturbances involving 654 animals; however, the naturalists prevented uncounted wildlife disturbances by providing information and instruction to kayakers.

The sanctuary’s TeamOcean Naturalist Kayaker Outreach Program began with a pilot project in 2000 and was officially launched in the summer of 2001. The volunteer group has tripled from nine volunteers in 2002 to 28 this year. Sponsors and financial supporters include Monterey Bay Kayaks, The Otter Project, Eskape Sea Kayaking, Peaceful Paddling, Perception Kayaks and Kokatat.

This year the sanctuary has also co-sponsored the production of laminated wildlife education cards for attachment to rental kayaks in the Monterey Bay area.

NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary stretches along 276 miles of central California coast and encompasses more than 5,300 square miles of ocean area. Renowned for its scenic beauty and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary supports one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems, including 33 species of marine mammals, 94 species of seabirds, 345 species of fishes and thousands of marine invertebrates and plants.

The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) seeks to increase public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA National Ocean Service is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. NOAA Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats, and mitigating coastal hazards.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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