KAANAPALI - The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) celebrated the official launch of its first local chapter, the Hawaii National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, during a private event on Feb. 16 at Whalers Village.
The launch is part of NMSF's efforts to engage local communities throughout the nation in support of national marine sanctuaries.
The Hawaii chapter will empower local leaders, stakeholders and local residents to play an active role in supporting the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
"This is a game-changer for how we support our national marine sanctuaries. National marine sanctuaries are nationally significant resources and places that anchor local coastal economies and communities. A local enterprise backed by national support combines the best of both worlds," said NMSF President Jason Patlis.
The Hawaii chapter is managed by a volunteer board made up of representatives from each of Hawaii's main islands. The board will coalesce community support for important initiatives to protect Hawaii's humpback whales and promote the value of national marine sanctuaries.
"Few people know that the thousands of endangered humpback whales that spend their winters here are in waters designated and protected as a national marine sanctuary. As a locally based chapter of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Hawaii NMSF seeks to increase public awareness of this important fact," said Lynette Poncin, chair of the Hawaii NMSF.
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 sites in the national marine sanctuary system and one of the world's most important humpback whale habitats.
An estimated 10,000 humpbacks visit the sanctuary annually. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is committed to the long-term protection of this endangered species.
"The Hawaii NMSF will help the sanctuary further reach out and build support of communities around the state. We are excited about the opportunities that the newly established chapter will create and look forward to having them as part of our sanctuary ohana," said Sanctuary Superintendent Malia Chow.