December 4, 2014
~Boat-based education network engages volunteers in coastal stewardship~
‘I am Team OCEAN’ campaign encourages ethical boating practices.
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is announcing a new awareness campaign developed to promote ethical boating practices among boaters using protected coastal waters. Called “I am Team OCEAN,” the campaign is centered around a call to boaters to pledge their commitment to minimizing negative impacts while enjoying local islands, estuaries and coastal waters.
Rookery Bay Reserve’s “I am Team OCEAN” campaign will be led by Team OCEAN (Ocean Conservation Education Action Network), a group of 45 dedicated volunteers at Rookery Bay Reserve who reach out to boaters with a focus on visitor education and coastal stewardship.
“Team OCEAN has been around for years, but the new ‘I am Team OCEAN’ campaign brings added focus and energy to the educational and stewardship messages,” said Kevin Claridge, Florida Coastal Office director. “Instead of only having 45 volunteers serving as stewards, this provides a way for boaters anywhere to be a part of Team OCEAN.”
“I am Team OCEAN” encourages ethical boating practices such as proper navigation for safety and protection of fragile aquatic habitats, packing out and tying down to reduce litter, and observing wildlife from a distance.
“Taking care of southwest Florida’s beautiful coastal areas is everyone’s job,” said Brooke Carney, Coastal Training Program coordinator for Rookery Bay Reserve. Carney developed the campaign in effort to galvanize support for the program. “I’m excited to launch the ‘I am Team OCEAN’ campaign because it gives people the opportunity to learn how important their actions are, while joining hundreds of other local boaters in doing our part for the coast,” she added.
Team OCEAN is a boat-based volunteer program supported through a partnership between the Rookery Bay Reserve, Florida Sea Grant and other local community donors. Following a model at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, volunteers with Rookery Bay Reserve’s Team OCEAN have made weekly visits to high-use areas in the reserve since the program originally launched in 2005. Through this program, volunteers help serve as the reserve’s “eyes and ears” on the water.
Boaters can take the “I am Team OCEAN” pledge online here, or in person if they see a Team OCEAN volunteer in the community or on the water.
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters between Naples and Everglades National Park. It is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in cooperation with NOAA.