Interview of the Week: Kris Sarri

Kris Sarri is the President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and we wanted to ask her some questions about this year’s Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), its focus on biodiversity, and how Kris hopes the event will focus on human diversity going forward as well. If you haven’t yet, make sure you sign up to attend this year’s virtual CHOW, it’s a fantastic lineup!

Here are some excerpts from our interview with Kris:

ODP: The theme for CHOW this year is biodiversity why did you pick that focus?

KS: It’s pretty simple, healthy people require a healthy planet and healthy planet requires a healthy ocean. A healthy ocean requires that we work together to protect the variety of life and protect everyone who relies on our oceans.

ODP: Why are plastics such a threat to ocean health as well as our own health?

KS: The microplastics we’re finding in our ocean are much smaller than we thought and that’s leading to a greater volume of plastics overall. I think the problem here is that when microplastics are small enough it’s easier for them to get into the food chain. We’re seeing that animals at all sorts of levels are getting plastics into their systems, and of course, as you move up the food chain to where we sit, that all bioaccumulates. It’s a big concern for public health and we’re still learning the impact it’s having on species. We need a lot more research to understand how plastic is going to affect the whole marine food chain and how it affects us as we eat more seafood. 

ODP: How are you and the foundation working to bring more diverse voices and communities to marine sanctuaries? 

KS: There’s a quote that Michelle Obama has on injustice: “It’s up to all of us, no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out” and I truly believe that.

Starting at CHOW 2021, we want it to be a discussion of diversity, inclusion, and equity in marine and Great Lakes communities. We’re not doing enough, we need to do a lot more to welcome people to national marine sanctuaries and to make sure they can engage in the programs we provide. I want to make sure I’m doing much more to have diverse voices in the work that we do and to make sure that those voices are heard and those people are seen in our community and in our work.

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