2016 Species in the Spotlight Hero Awards
In 2016, we recognized these heroes who have expanded and enhanced recovery of our most imperiled marine species.
Atlantic Salmon Gulf of Maine Spotlight Hero: Andy Goode
Most recently, he successfully negotiated the removal of Coopers Mills Dam on the Sheepscot River. The dam had been a significant obstruction to Atlantic salmon. It was a thorny problem for which non-governmental organizations, the local community, and state and federal partners have tried to find a collaborative solution for more than 20 years. The issues with this dam were further complicated because the river was used as a water source for local firefighting. It also had important cultural connections to the community.
Through perseverance, partnerships, and hard work, Andy negotiated a compromise. The solution creates a visitor’s area that memorializes the cultural and historical significance of the structure and ensures a water source for firefighting. Above all, it allows for free passage of Atlantic salmon by removal of the dam.
Because of Andy’s efforts in this restoration project and others, critically endangered Atlantic salmon will benefit from improved connectivity to important habitats vital to their recovery.
Central California Coast Coho Spotlight Hero: Dr. Brian Dietterick
Over the last decade, Brian, staff, and students have strengthened and diversified recovery efforts for Central California Coast coho salmon. They have provided critical support for NOAA Fisheries and other resource partners by:
- Collecting and sharing data in support of the Central California Coast coho salmon federal recovery plan.
- Hosting meetings and field tours for the Scott Creek Lagoon restoration project.
- Conducting high priority, multi-year restoration projects in Scott Creek to restore habitat complexity and floodplain connectivity.
- Providing access to habitat on the Ranch so that scientists can calibrate regional estimates of coho salmon.
Brian has been a leading voice in discussions regarding the possible construction of a new conservation hatchery for Central California Coast coho salmon. The watersheds in the Santa Cruz Mountains are primarily owned by private individuals. Brian has been a vital connection to this important constituency.
Scott Creek is the front line for preserving Central California Coast coho salmon south of San Francisco Bay. The successful recovery of these populations will require forging and maintaining partnerships that use sustainable management approaches in these working landscapes.Brian and his staff at Swanton Pacific Ranch practice and teach these same values.
Brian is a dedicated leader for Central California Coast coho salmon conservation. He connects his colleagues, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students with unparalleled opportunities for coho salmon conservation, education, and habitat restoration in the name of species recovery.
Cook Inlet Beluga Whales Spotlight Heroes: Chris Garner, Christie Osburn, and Richard Graham, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
Hawaiian Monk Seal Spotlight Hero: The Marine Mammal Center's Ke Kai Ola Facility
Since opening in 2014, The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola facility has played a critical role in Hawaiian monk seal recovery. The hospital is unique in that it is entirely dedicated to rehabilitating Hawaii’s endemic and endangered seal. The Marine Mammal Center has been a valuable partner for many years, with decades of experience rehabilitating pinnipeds in California. With the opening of the Hawaii Island facility, rehabilitation has become an option for more seals. The facility opened a new chapter in Hawaiian monk seal conservation and recovery.
By the end of 2016, a total of 15 malnourished seals had been successfully rehabilitated and returned to their homes, and four more remained in treatment awaiting their release to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. (Get the latest updates on Ke Kai Ola’s patients.) Monk seal rehabilitation presents its own unique set of challenges, which Ke Kai Ola’s staff has faced with tireless dedication.
There are only ~1,400 Hawaiian monk seals. These rehabilitated seals play an invaluable role in maintaining and building population numbers in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Without Ke Kai Ola, many of these seals had virtually no chance of survival. In only a few short years, Ke Kai Ola has rehabilitated about 1 percent of the total population.
In addition to the role Ke Kai Ola has played in rehabilitation, the facility has also contributed resources and staff for numerous other Hawaiian monk seal projects, including:
- Participating in stranding response activities that occur on the island of Hawaii and neighboring islands.
- Engaging communities through outreach on the beach and in the classroom.
- Helping with the initial stages of the morbillivirus vaccination program.
- Contributing to the long- term monk seal specimen archive.
The Ke Kai Ola staff is dedicated to monk seal conservation. They are incredibly knowledgeable, and exemplify the collaborative spirit that the Species in the Spotlight initiative seeks to foster and highlight.
Leatherback Spotlight Hero: The State University of Papua
UNIPA researchers, students, and international collaborators have worked tirelessly. They established a science-based management plan that minimizes sea turtle nest failure and enhances hatchling production. UNIPA has also worked with communities and local partners, including the Tambrauw government, to gain support and trust. UNIPA engages them as stakeholders in implementing priority conservation actions, ensuring that they benefit from leatherback conservation.
The challenges on the ground are many, but the UNIPA leatherback project continues to persist with unwavering determination. Fitry Pakiding, who has been the heart and soul of the project in recent years, received the award on behalf of UNIPA. Fitry has a strong sense of responsibility towards the conservation of this leatherback population. Despite all the challenges, her dynamic involvement, common-sense approach, and wisdom have energized leatherback conservation efforts in Papua.
Sacramento Winter-Run Chinook Salmon Spotlight Hero: Lewis Bair
Most notably, Lewis’s efforts led to the funding of two major projects. Both projects were included in the 5-year action plan: a fish barrier at the Knights Landing Outfall Gates and the Wallace Weir Fish Rescue Project.
Reclamation District 108 contributed approximately $500,000 to the permitting and design of the fish barrier at Knights Landing Outfall Gates. This should reduce the straying of adult salmon on their upstream migration to spawning grounds.
The Wallace Weir Fish Rescue Project is expected to prevent adult salmon from straying into agricultural ditches and will help rescue salmon from the Yolo Bypass. This will allow them to be returned to the Sacramento River.
The Sacramento Valley Salmon Recovery Program was instrumental in restoring winter-run Chinook salmon spawning habitat. They supported the Painter’s Riffle Anadromous Fish Habitat Enhancement Project, which was completed in December 2014. This project was made possible through significant coordination among water users, the salmon fishing industry, environmental groups, and federal and state agencies. It kicked off an accelerated pace of salmon habitat restoration.
Southern Resident Killer Whale Spotlight Hero: Jeff Hogan
Jeff has poured his heart and soul into this unique program. He has helped promote awareness and conservation of killer whales to an audience that we would normally be unable to reach. During the 2015–2016 school year, Jeff and Killer Whale Tales reached a record of 12,742 students in 312 classrooms at 206 schools. This included new students and classrooms in California through a NOAA Hollings Grant and new partnerships with NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries Program. Killer Whale Tales inspires active stewardship in students and their families. It allows them to participate in actions that make measurable differences for the whales and their environment. No other program takes such an ambitious approach to address multiple aspects of killer whale conservation. Nor does any other program have such a strong record of evaluating the on-the-ground impact of recovery actions taken by dedicated individuals.