Blog: “What We Accomplished in 2020, and Our Plans for 2021: Protecting Wildlife; Committing to Diversity; and Promoting Ocean Stewardship” by Dan Haifley

First, the exciting news. 

We have a list of projects that we hope to fund, with your help, with the money we raise in 2021, including an internship program at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) for students from traditionally under-served communities, to encourage diversity in the ranks of professional managers for our ocean. 

Secondly, we are pleased to report that we made it through a very tough year, funding nearly all the projects that we said we would.


How We Spent Your Donations in 2020

Let’s talk about 2020 first.  The Monterey Bay Chapter of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation made it through a tough year, spending $85,000 out of $100,000 budgeted for program grants, sponsorships, and outreach and education including the Foundation’s short film.  

Some of the budgeted funds remain allocated, but were not yet spent. For example, not as much whale rescue boat time was needed in 2020 as in the past, but the funds remain available.  And because the Santa Cruz Warriors basketball team did not have a season because of COVID- 19, a sponsorship to build Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary awareness among its fan base was not used. 

Funds were used from an Ocean Protection Council grant to benefit the on-the-water Team OCEAN docent program, which did operate in 2020, reaching 780 people, and the shore-line volunteer program known as BayNet, which did not operate but virtual marine science and ecology education was provided to its volunteers. 


2020 Whale Rescue and Tangle-free Fishing Gear

There were four whale disentanglements by NOAA’s whale disentanglement team within our region in 2020, fewer than in past years. We don’t know whether this was because there were fewer entanglements, or whether fewer were reported. In order to try and preclude the need for whale rescues in the future, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation has been working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Ocean Protection Council, to explore the design, testing and development of new fishing gear that is far less likely to entangle whales. Greg Wells has been hired to work with individuals in California’s fishing community to facilitate the process, and that effort is well underway.

Also, with a grant from our chapter, Marine Life Studies undertook an underwater cleanup to clear out derelict gear that could cause entanglements. Among the items removed were 22 crab pots, over 3,900 feet of line, three mud anchors and multiple buoys. 


Community Engagement in 2020

Besides the work of Team OCEAN and (virtually) Bay Net, our chapter held five successful virtual events. Our annual signature event, the Sea Stars Brunch, honored our community’s ocean heroes, including MBARI scientist Jim Barry, Elkhorn Slough Foundation Executive Director Mark Silberstein, the Dream Inn Santa Cruz hotel, the Cowell Beach Working Group which cleaned up Santa Cruz’ Cowell Beach and got it off the Heal The Bay’s Top Ten Dirtiest Beaches list, and Mary Alice Cerrito-Fettis, who runs Monterey’s annual, popular WhaleFest Monterey event.  The Foundation also held a charity Sea Chess tournament, and three educational lunch-time “Sanctuary Sup” events. 

We were awarded a grant from the Ocean Protection Council to expand the work of Team OCEAN, which helped them develop curriculum, to purchase equipment, and keep volunteers safely engaged during the COVID-19 lockdown. 


Lots in Store for 2021

Our chapter, under the expert day-to-day leadership of Ginaia Kelly, is planning as though pandemic-driven restrictions will continue, while hoping that some activities can resume. In 2021, funds raised will be used for projects that will include: $35,000 for virtual live-streamed ocean education into inland communities, $25,000 for Whale Rescue, $8,000 for awareness building through sponsorships and partnerships through Whalefest Monterey and the Sea Dubs Santa Cruz Warrior’s basketball organization, $10,000 to refurbish exhibits at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Exploration Center in Santa Cruz, and $20,000 to provide stipends for internships for students from under-represented communities.

Team Ocean, BayNet and Whale Rescue and its associated gear innovation program will continue to benefit from California Ocean Protection Council grants.


How You Can Help

You can help us achieve these outcomes by donating directly at  Also, you can follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and talk to your friends, family and colleagues about our work.

Thank you so much for your support. It makes a huge difference!



By Dan Haifley, Secretary of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Board of Directors; former Executive Director of O’Neill Sea Odyssey and Save Our Shores.