Capitol Hill Ocean Week took place in June. What happened, and were divers’ interests well represented?

 From Tuesday, June 13 to Thursday, June 15, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation hosted Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), the nation’s premiere ocean-policy conference to celebrate our ocean and Great Lakes. This year’s conference brought together an interdisciplinary audience of over 700 passionate individuals from the private sector, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to discuss current challenges facing our aquatic resources and potential solutions.

People from 20 countries watched the conference and the accompanying OceansLIVE livestream. CHOW 2017 focused on four themes: Visions for Our Ocean and Great Lakes; Science, Technology, and Exploration; Conservation from the Local to the National; and Health and Social Impacts. To view all the plenaries and OceansLIVE broadcasts from Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2017 visit YouTube.

Relevance to divers

Divers specifically may have found certain sessions interesting. During the OceansLIVE panel, Operation Blue Sky: Outdoor Therapy for America’s Heroes, veterans and current divers Dr. Albert Jose Jones, Jay Haigler, Les Burke, and Robert Vessels, explored how connecting with nature, particularly scuba diving, benefits veterans who experience PTSD. The welcoming communities of divers help veterans integrate back into society by providing them with a purpose through youth diving programs. Diving has also created a passionate ocean conservation and education community. Many diving associations strive to educate youth, assist our veterans, and provide people with all backgrounds and histories an opportunity to explore life underwater.

The Value of America’s Public Waters panelists included avid divers, kayakers, conservationists, and politicians Stephen D. Kroll, Judy Lathrop, Scott Hickman, and Patrick Pletnikoff. This panel demonstrated that conserving our public waters through National Marine Sanctuaries is fundamental for a range of interests. Panelist Stephen D. Kroll, the former owner of Great Lakes Divers, emphasized how sanctuaries create a community for divers, leading to the development of partnerships between divers and other organizations. Each panelist explained what they think makes marine sanctuaries and the broader ocean and Great Lakes important and why our role as community members can lead to the protection of aquatic resources now, and for future generations.

Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2018 will take place June 5-7, 2018 in Washington, D.C. To receive updates about Capitol Hill Ocean Week, visit capitolhilloceanweek.org.

By guest author Alison Thompson, Communications Intern, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

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