The NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture works to advance the economic, environmental, and social benefits of marine aquaculture. In early 2021, the office set out to increase and diversify partnerships with stakeholders around the nation. This focus on inclusion and accessibility included partnering with Indigenous communities, supporting high school outreach projects, and strengthening connections to minority serving nonprofit organizations. Through these efforts, one partnership was able to host the first-ever Minorities In Aquaculture (MIA) communications student intern.
As a non-profit, MIA works to bridge the gap between minority women and sustainable seafood. The organization educates minority women about the environmental benefits provided by local and global aquaculture to promote a more diverse, inclusive industry. “Our paid internship initiatives with partner aquaculture organizations like NOAA provide important opportunities that are free of the financial barriers that can inhibit opportunity and inclusion,” said MIA founder Imani Black. An oyster grower herself, Black served as a co-mentor for the 2021 intern, helping the selected student build connections in the rapidly growing aquaculture industry. “We were thrilled to host Kamille Morton this year and connect her studies to real-world outreach and conservation efforts,” added Black.
Morton, a sophomore biology major at Howard University, joined MIA as a communications intern during the fall 2021 semester. Her work with the organization included social media outreach, communications material and strategy design, and organizational development. “I was interested in this internship opportunity because I’ve been a pescatarian since eighth grade. From then on, I’ve had a growing fascination and interest in seafood, and I was excited to learn more about aquaculture and MIA in general,” said Morton.
“Currently, women—especially women of color—are the minority in the aquaculture field,” explains Black. “Our goal is to educate women of color on the environmental benefits of aquaculture and support them as they launch and sustain their careers in the field, growing the seafood industry and creating an empowering space for women along the way.” This commitment to accessibility and empowering community was one of the reasons Morton joined the MIA team. “What I love most about MIA is that it is so support-focused. Whatever they can help you with, whether it’s academic, professional, or personal, they are going to do it,” added Morton.
NOAA’s Office of Aquaculture and the Office of Education have collaborated with Black and MIA for years on aquaculture literacy and accessibility. This is the first time they have partnered to support an intern opportunity to expand outreach to underrepresented communities and introduce students to the aquaculture industry. “As the U.S. aquaculture industry continues to expand, we have the opportunity to build a community that reflects the stakeholders we serve and the rich diversity of our nation,” said Cindy Sandoval, communications specialist for the Office of Aquaculture. “Building a community of enthusiasts with various skill sets, backgrounds, and perspectives to meet the challenges of sustainable seafood, community health, and climate resilience is needed now and for future generations.”
Kamille will continue to grow and develop her knowledge in aquaculture while she finishes her Biology degree at Howard University. After completing her internship with this communications focus, Kamille hopes to dive into the field of communications more, specifically digital marketing.